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USA's Eaton takes big lead into decathlon homestretch

World record holder Ashton Eaton of the United States will carry a sizeable lead over countryman Trey Hardee into the final session of the decathlon at the London Games.

After the completion of the five events on Wednesday, Eaton entered the second and final day of the event with a 220-point edge over Hardee and will take a lead of 222 points into the last two disciplines -- the javelin and 1,500 meters. The final two events will be staged on Thursday night at Olympic Stadium.

Hardee was first in the 110m hurdles on Thursday morning's 110m hurdles, but Eaton was second. Eaton's lead did shrink to 99 points when he placed 22nd in the discus and Hardee finished third. However, Eaton cleared 5.20 meters in the pole vault, giving him third place in the discipline and 7,381 points. Hardee was eighth in the pole vault.

Hardee's current score of 7,159 gives him a 232-point lead over Germany's Rico Freimuth. Canada's Damian Walker is only 11 points behind Freimuth in the chase for bronze.

Eaton broke the decathlon world record with a score of 9,039 at U.S. trials this year. He and Roman Sebrle of the Czech Republic are the only two men to break the 9,000-point barrier. The 37-year-old Sebrle, who still owns the Olympic record of 8,893, started the competition in London, but bowed out after a poor showing in the 100-meters -- the decathlon's opening event.

Bryan Clay of the U.S. won the decathlon four years ago in Beijing. The Americans haven't placed 1-2 in the event since 1956, when Milt Campbell won gold and Rafer Johnson placed second. Medals will be determined after the conclusion of the 1,500 meters.

Also, on Thursday morning the men ran in heats for the 1,600-meter relay. The U.S. team qualified easily, tying the Bahamas for the fastest time of 2 minutes, 58.87 seconds. Trinidad and Tobago and Great Britain qualified with the next-fastest times of 3:00.38.

After a bit of controversy, the South African relay team that includes Oscar Pistorius also qualified for Friday's final. A collision during the second leg of a preliminary heat for the men's 1,600-meter relay prevented the South African team from completing the race, during which Pistorius was slated to run third. But an appeal of the incident was successful because the team was obstructed by the Kenyans and that allowed South Africa to advance to the final.

Pistorius, a double amputee who runs with the help of carbon fiber artificial limbs, became the first man to compete in both the Summer and Paralympic Games when he ran the 400m earlier at these games. He qualified for the semifinals with a season-best time, but didn't move on to the final. He could become the first person to medal at both the Summer and Paralympic Games if South Africa can get on the podium in the 1,600 relay.

Jamaica did not qualify for the relay final as Jermaine Gonzales pulled up lame while running the third leg of the race. The Jamaicans haven't medaled in the 1,600m relay since taking silver at the 2000 Sydney Games.

In qualifying for women's high jump, Svetlana Radzivil of Uzbekistan posted the top jump of 1.96 meters. Defending Olympic champion Tia Hellebaut of Belgium also qualified at 1.93m, the same height that allowed Americans Chaunte Lowe and Brigetta Barrett to move on to the finals.