Sopot: US shot putter Ryan Whiting retained his world indoor title in thrilling style on Friday as Nadine Broersen claimed the Netherlands` first ever women`s pentathlon gold.
In a packed opening day at the Ergo Arena at the Polish Baltic Sea resort town of Sopot, a host of other favourites safely negotiated their heats ahead of finals over the weekend.
In a gripping shot put contest, Whiting managed a best of 22.05 metres on his fourth attempt to finish 26cm ahead of Germany`s two-time outdoor champion David Storl, the early leader.
New Zealand`s Tomas Walsh claimed a surprise bronze (21.26m) to break home hearts, as the hugely popular Tomasz Majewski finished 22cm short of the podium.
"I came in as favourite and I`m glad I could execute because I didn`t last summer in Moscow (when he won silver behind Storl)," said the 27-year-old Whiting.
"I plan to be the favourite a lot in the future. It`s a good step."
The 23-year-old Broersen racked up 4,830 points from the five disciplines of 60m hurdles, high jump, shot put, long jump and 800m that make up the pentathlon.
"My head is like a rollercoaster," said Broersen, who only started combined events in 2009. "It was a hard competition. These are tears of joy in my eyes."
Her victory ruined any chance of golden marital bliss for Canada`s silver medallist Brianne Thiesen Eaton, whose American husband Ashton Eaton was primed for top spot on the podium in the men`s heptathlon.
Eaton, on 3,653 pts overnight, was just one point shy of his own world record pace with the 60m hurdles, pole vault and 1,000m to be held on Saturday.
Thiesen Eaton put her silver-medal showing, in what was the closest ever world indoor pentathlon with just 273pts separating the eight athletes, down to a lack of mental steel.
"It wasn`t so much the physical thing I struggled with, but more a little bit mentally, getting excited to compete at this meet," she said.
In other events, a host of familiar faces advanced smoothly through their heats, notably Australian Sally Pearson, who matched her season best of 7.79sec to easily progress in the 60m hurdles.
"I was quite nervous out there because it is the first round," said Pearson, who claimed the world outdoor 100m hurdles title in 2011 in Daegu and went on to win Olympic gold in London a year later.
"I am in good shape, it felt comfortable and I am excited to be here. In the final, I want to win, of course, but I will have to run faster than what I have done."
Jamaican Nesta Carter, the fifth fastest man of all time over 100m, sailed through his opening 60m heat along with a bunch of other favourites including US duo Marvin Bracy and Trell Kimmons, and British veteran Dwain Chambers.
Kenyan-born Bernard Lagat and US teammate Galen Rupp, the training partner of absent Briton Mo Farah, both moved through to the final of the men`s 3000m.
Fancied Ethiopian duo Genzebe Dibaba and Mohammed Aman both advanced to the finals of their respective events, but there was a scare for Blanka Vlasic.
Dibaba, fresh from breaking three world indoor records as she looks to add the 3000m crown to the 1500m indoor title she won two years ago in Istanbul, cruised through her heat.
"The race went very well," Dibaba said. "I don`t think I`ll have a hard time taking gold."
Aman produced a last-lap burst of speed to also easily win his 800m heat and put him well on the way to defending the title he won in Istanbul as a junior.
"I`ll do my best to take my second gold at my second championships," Aman said, although there will be tough competition from the likes of South African Andre Olivier and Polish pair Adam Kszczot and Marcin Lewandowski.
There was a huge scare for Croatia`s Vlasic, the former two-time outdoor and indoor world high jump champion missing the qualifying standard of 1.95m.
She eventually went through to the final with Belgium`s Nafissatou Thiam in joint eighth place with a best of 1.92m and was eager to play down her morning session blip.
"My main and only aim was to qualify for the final," the 30-year-old said. "I don`t know why, my leg fell asleep during the qualification. I only had two competitions before Sopot but I feel confident."