Sergei Bubka, trying to please United States track and field fans, broke the 20-foot barrier in the pole vault Friday, clearing that height in his first attempt during an international meet.

It was the second time in a week that the 27-year-old Bubka had attempted that world record height. He failed in three tries to negotiate 20 feet at the World Indoor Championships at Seville last Saturday.Afterward, he said he did it because Americans understood the significance of 20 feet, as opposed to the rest of the world, which only considers metric heights.

In sailing cleanly over the bar, he surpassed his indoor record of 19-111/4, set Feb. 27.

After another Soviet, Viktor Ryzhenkov, and Bubka cleared 19-43/4, Ryzhenkov missed three attempts at 19-81/2. Bubka then told officials to raise the bar to the record height. He touched nothing going over.

"It was very good tonight," Bubka said in a telephone interview from his hotel room. "I was in good form and I thought I was going to break the record.

"I'm happy because this is going to get a lot of attention in America."

Bubka also holds the world outdoor record of 19-101/2, set in 1988.

Earlier, Carl Lewis, competing indoors for the first time in two years, finished third in the 60-meter dash, behind Nigerian Chidi Imoh and Jamaican Raymond Stewart.

Lewis had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee in October, one month after his last outdoor appearance, and said at the time he would forgo the indoor season again. But he apparently was lured by a high appearance fee.

Imoh, the bronze medalist at the World Indoor Championships, led all the way and finished in 6.53 seconds. His time was only five-hundredths of a second slower than American Leroy Burrell's month-old world record of 6.48. Stewart's time was 6.62 and Lewis' was 6.74.