By Brian Homewood


LONDON (Reuters) - Frenchman Kevin Mayer took an early lead in the decathlon at the World Championships on Friday in the race to fill the void left by the retirement of American Ashton Eaton this year.


Eaton had dominated the sport for the previous four years, winning the last two Olympic and last two world championship titles.


Mayer, silver medalist at the Olympics last year, produced a personal best of 10.70 seconds as he finished fourth in the 100 meters, the first of the 10 disciplines, held over two days.


The 25-year-old also performed well in the shot put, where he threw a season's best of 15.72 meters to finish second, and was fourth in the long jump with a leap of 7.52 meters.


After three events, Mayer led with 2703 points, ahead of Germany's Rico Freimuth, on 2678, and twice former world champion Trey Hardee, on 2647.

Canadian Damian Warner, bronze medalist in Rio, began strongly by winning the 100 meters in 10.50 meters but slipped down the field to sixth after struggling in the shot put, where he threw a modest 13.45 meters.

Warner was often seen as the man most likely to break Eaton's dominance and London is seen as his best chance yet of winning a first world or Olympic title.

(Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Kevin Liffey)