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Page last updated at 07:09 GMT, Tuesday, 5 August 2008 08:09 UK

Ten to watch: Roman Sebrle

Sebrle montage

By Andrew McKenzie

Bob Mathias and Daley Thompson are the only athletes to have ever retained the Olympic decathlon title.

Roman Sebrle will aim to join that list and cement his place in the history books by defending his crown in Beijing.

It is seven years since the Czech star set his world record of 9,026 and, at 33 and with a succession of injuries behind him, there are doubts whether he can still rise to the challenge of one of athletics' toughest tests.

But write off the current Olympic, World and European champion at your peril.

PATH TO THE PODIUM

2008 form: Dogged by injury. He suffered a left thigh problem at the World Indoor Championships in Valencia in March and then another injury to the same leg a month later.

Woods, Einstein montage
Sebrle says there are three people he'd like to meet: Albert Einstein, Tiger Woods and...
In June he achieved the Olympic qualifying mark by scoring 8,076 points in Kladno but he pulled out of a recent competition in Prague with an injury to his right thigh.

Rivals: Sadly not Britain's Dean Macey, but plenty of others stand in his way of gold.

Most notably Sebrle's close friend Bryan Clay, who at the recent US trials set a personal best of 8,832 - the best decathlon performance in four years. He will be looking for revenge after finishing 73 points behind Sebrle in Athens.

US pair Trey Hardee and Tom Pappas also have pedigree while Andrei Krauchanka of Belarus and Kazakhstan's Dmitri Karpov have also gone over 8,500 this year.

World silver medallist Maurice Smith of Jamaican recently beat Sebrle in scoring a season best 8,434 points.

How he could win: By coming from behind. At both the 2004 Olympics and the World Championships in 2007 he left it seriously late to overtake his rivals and win gold.

In over a decade of competing at the top the Czech star has produced remarkable decathlon consistency. No-one can match his 40 decathlons over 8,000 points and 20 over 8,500.

What he says: "I'm going to eat everything that is bad for an athlete," after winning gold in Athens.

Ahead of this year's Games he says: "I am looking forward to Beijing, to the atmosphere and I would like to enjoy the competition the most."

Sporting high: Becoming the first man to break the 9,000 points barrier in 2001 was big, especially as it saw him emerge from the shadow of compatriot - and rival - Tomas Dvorak.

But nothing tops his Olympic gold. In 2004 he left it until the penultimate event to overtake Karpov and held off Clay in the 1500m - in the process erasing Thompson's Olympic record for the event.

Sporting low: At the Sydney Olympics he was denied gold when Erki Nool successfully appealed when appearing to foul in the discus and went on to win the competition.

"Erki was lucky. He fouled in the discus but it's history," says Sebrle.

In action: The gruelling two-day event takes place on 21 and 22 August:

August 21: 100m, long jump, decathlon shot, high jump, decathlon 400m

August 22: 110m hurdles, discus, pole vault, javelin, 1500m

AWAY FROM ATHLETICS

Life before sport: A talented footballer as a youngster, he suffered a seriously broken leg at the age of 13 that meant he had to learn how to walk again.

Afterwards he fell in love with athletics and combined it with his football, but at the age of 20 he made the decision that his future was in track and field.

Hero worship: There are three people that Sebrle would like to meet: Tiger Woods, Albert Einstein and Charles IV. He may struggle with the last two.

Most likely to: be found on the golf course in the summer. In the winter he plays golf indoors and even built his own special centre to feed his golfing habit.

He once said: "All the free time that I have, I'm going to play golf which is not good because I'm supposed to rest after training. I really love it."

Sebrle other loves include football and sleeping, but when awake he likes to spend time with his wife and two children.

Least likely to: be found strolling across the javelin field without paying attention. In January 2007 he went walkabout during training in South Africa and it nearly cost him his life as a stray javelin lodged into his shoulder.

"If the javelin had hit me 10cm to the left it would have punctured my lung; 20cm higher the throat," he said. "Just 1cm higher and it would have hit bone, muscle and tendon and that would have been the end of my sporting career."

Did you know? Earlier this year Sebrle won the "Old Spice Real Man Award" ahead of Czech pop singer Karel Gott, president Vaclav Klaus and Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech.



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see also
Lucky to be alive
20 Feb 07 |  Athletics
Sebrle to make return to Odyssey
24 Jan 08 |  Athletics
Sebrle wraps up decathlon defence
11 Aug 06 |  Athletics
Sebrle eyes London 2012 decathlon
14 Aug 06 |  Athletics
Sebrle set to keep silver medal
13 Aug 05 |  Athletics
Clay reigns supreme in decathlon
10 Aug 05 |  Athletics
World decathlon record for Sebrle
27 May 01 |  Athletics


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