There was a terrific track meet Thursday at Luzhniki Stadium at Moscow. But the central action came -- unsurprisingly -- courtesy of Russian pole vault diva Yelena Isinbayeva, underscoring the controversy over Russia's new anti-gay law. It all started when Swedish high jumper Emma Green Tregaro posted an Instagram picture of her fingernails painted "in the colors of the rainbow," with the hashtags #pride and #moscow2013. Also, Swedish sprinter Moa Hjelmer ran in the heats of the 200-meter heats with her nails painted in rainbow colors as well.
Isinbayeva, who got her gold medal Thursday after Tuesday's captivating pole-vault action, told reporters, in English, "If we allow to promote and do all this stuff on the street, we are very afraid about our nation because we consider ourselves like normal, standard people. We just live with boys with woman, woman with boys.
"Everything must be fine. It comes from history. We never had any problems, these problems in Russia, and we don't want to have any in the future."
Green Tregaro is one of the world's best jumpers, a consistent top-10 performer; she is due to return to the track Saturday for the high jump finals. Isinbayeva said even painted fingernails were out of place.
"It's unrespectful to our country. It's unrespectful to our citizens because we are Russians. Maybe we are different from European people and other people from different lands. We have our home and everyone has to respect (it). When we arrive to different countries, we try to follow their rules."
Isinbayeva's comments in defense of the Russian law, which prohibits the promotion of homosexuality to minors or holding gay pride rallies, need to be fully understood in context.
Who thinks that someone of her stature made such remarks without the full support beforehand of the leading authorities in Russia? After all, she is due to be the honorary mayor of the Sochi 2014 Winter Games athletes' village.
This, too: the demonstration by the Swedish athletes makes for an interesting test. There were no immediate reports of Green Tregaro being arrested. Nor, for that matter, Hjelmer.
Back to the track:
In the same way that Isinbayeva captivated fans Tuesday night with her victory in the pole vault, the men's high-jump thrilled fans Thursday, with Ukrainian Bohdan Bondarenko coming out on top in a duel with Qatar's Mutaz Essa Barshim, Canada's Derek Drouin and Russia's Ivan Ukhov.
For the first time since 1995, a 2.35-meter clearance in the high jump -- 7 feet, 8-1/2 inches -- would not even be good enough for a medal.
Bondarenko's winning jump: a championship-record 2.41 meters, or 7 feet, 10-3/4 inches.
Barshim and Drouin tied for bronze last year in London; here, Barshim took silver, Drouin, bronze. Ukhov, last year's gold medalist, settled for fourth. American Eric Kynard, the 2012 silver medalist, took fifth.
With a huge contingent of fans from Ukraine on hand, in their blue and yellow shirts, Bondarenko, seventh last year in London, made three tries at a new world record -- 2.46 meters, or 8 feet, 3/4 inch -- but no go. It was quite a spectacle; he wore one yellow shoe and one red.
In the men's 3,000-meter steeplechase, Kenya's Ezekiel Kemboi continued his dominance with an 8:06.01 victory.
If track and field were more of a mainstream sport, particularly in the United States, Kemboi would be a dream. As it is, in many precincts, he is a virtual unknown. Amazing, considering he has two Olympic golds and, now, three world championship golds.
For this race, Kemboi showed up with a Mohawk. He is a character and celebrated his win -- which he ensured with his typical kick into overdrive down the homestretch -- with, per usual, a dance, using the Kenyan flag as a makeshift skirt.
Under his singlet, it turned out, he was wearing a shirt that proclaimed he was wearing his victory -- he had a certain confidence, apparently -- to Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta and deputy William Ruto, "my heroes my kings I love Kenya."
Kenya's Conseslus Kipruto -- he's just 18 -- took silver, in 8:06.37, and France's Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad bronze 8:07.86.
As a measure of their county's dominance in the event, check out the rank of Kenyans in top 10 in the order of finish: 1, 2, 4, 7.
Meanwhile, Evan Jager of the United States ran fifth in 8:08.62, the best finish for an American man since Mark Croghan in 1993. Jager's marked the fastest fifth-place time, ever, in a 3,000-meter steeplechase at a world championships.
Jager now has the three fastest 3k steeple times in American history. And he has only run the event 12 times.
"I'm definitely happy with how far I've come, and I'm excited for the future," Jager said. "But I really wanted a medal. I wanted it real bad."
Jehue Gordon of Trinidad and Tobago became the island nation's second-ever world champ -- behind sprinter Ato Boldon, now an NBC analyst -- winning the men's 400-meter hurdles, in 47.69, the fastest time in the world this year. American Michael Tinsley finished in a personal best 47.70.
Both men ended up sprawled on the blue track just after the finish line, the race too close to call for a few moments.
Serbia's Emir Bekric, the European under-23 champion who almost seems too big and too tall to be running track -- he looks like a linebacker for the Green Bay Packers, or something -- took bronze, in a national-record 48.05.
Felix Sanchez, the 2004 and 2012 Olympic champion, got fifth, in 48.22.
In the women's 400 hurdles, Zuzana Henjova of the Czech Republic, who had served notice all week that she was the one to beat, came through for the gold in 52.84, the best time in the world this year.
Americans went 2-3, Dalilah Muhammad catching Lashinda Demus at the line for the silver. Muhammad finished in 54.09, Demus in 54.27.
Caterine Ibarguen's win in the triple jump marked Colombia's first-ever gold medal at the worlds.
Finally, in the women's 1500 -- the start of which was held for 10 minutes while the men's high jump wrapped up -- Sweden's Abeba Aregawi kicked past American Jenny Simpson, who had led for most of the race.
Aregawi -- who ran for Ethiopia at the 2012 Olympics, finishing fifth -- crossed in 4:02.67, Simpson in 4:02.99. Ethiopia's Genzebe Dibaba took their in 4:03.86.
Simpson's silver proved emphatically that her victory in the event two years ago at the worlds in Daegu, South Korea, was no fluke.
"I think the last 200 I was almost unconscious," Simpson said. "I just kept telling myself, just run as hard as you can."
Mary Cain, the 17-year-old from Bronxville, N.Y., finished 10th, in 4:07.19.
She said, "I think later tonight I'm going to be really, really angry in a good way, and I think I'm going to be really motivated. I think you guys are probably a little scared. Normally you see me like, 'Oh, ducks, puddles,' but I'm going to go home and I'm going to get into this. I think this is going to motivate me so much for next year.
"Next year there are no worlds. It's just me and learning how to race."