Lavillenie on road to great heights | 14.01.2013
|French pole vaulter Renaud Lavillenie.
His brilliant victories in Torino in 2009 and Paris two years later put him in line to become the first man to achieve a hat-trick at the event at these Championships.
And if his first major competition of the year is a guide to both him and his rivals, he will once more be the man to beat.
Lavillenie, 26, cleared a best of 5.83m at Aubiere in central France which is an impressive opening in the gradual countdown to the three-day championships that start on March 1.
He holds the French record of 6.03m which would surely come under threat if this performance was just for starters.
He failed his three attempts at 5.93m but these are early days.
Ukrainian Bubka, the five-times world champion and world record-holder, won the European title on just the one occasion on Piraeus in 1985.
And before Lavillenie, only twice before had an athlete won it twice in a row – West Germany's Wolfgang Nordwig in 1971 and 1972 and Russian Pyotr Bochkaryov in 1992 and 1994.
But Lavillenie is the dominant force in the event, confirming his global brilliance by winning last summer's title in London last summer with an Olympic record of 5.97m.
After Aubiere on Saturday, he said: "I have to be satisfied. I am only at 80 per cent of my potential, but 5.83m is the performance kind that uniformly puts you on an international podium."
The podium is a place that Lavillenie is becoming used to.
His European victories started with a personal best of 5.81m in Turin in 2009 before he became one of the stars at the Palais Omnisports de Paris-Bercy in 2011 with victory in a Championship, and national record, of 6.03m.
In between those titles, he won the European outdoor crown in Barcelona in 2010 and then became one of the most successful athletes of 2012.
Lavillenie began with victory at the World Indoor Championships in Istanbul before retaining his title at the European Athletics Championships in Helsinki, with a world leading 5.97m, before his London glory.
Göteborg awaits...as do the record books.