Lavillenie bidding for a return to the top of the podium in Berlin

Renaud Lavillenie
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Renaud Lavillenie will face a loaded field in the pole vault at the Berlin 2018 European Athletics Championships including world U20 record-holder Armand Duplantis and European indoor champion Piotr Lisek

Can France’s 31-year-old Renaud Lavillenie add a fourth European outdoor pole vault title to his resume at the Berlin 2018 European Athletics Championships or will the world record-holder have to give best to the rising new talent of his event, 18-year-old Armand Duplantis of Sweden?

Duplantis, who last month won gold at the IAAF World U20 Championships in Tampere, has already earned a victory on the Diamond League circuit, beating Lavillenie, world champion Sam Kendricks - and virtually every other vaulter of note - at his home meeting in Stockholm on 10 June.

The prodigiously talented vaulter who was brought up and still lives in the United States - and whose father Greg was a 5.80m vaulter himself - has already raised his own world U20 record to the heady height of 5.93m this season.

But Lavillenie, the Olympic champion in 2012 and world record-holder with 6.16m, should never be underestimated. He tops this year’s world lists with 5.95 and patently knows how to win on the big occasion. He demonstrated this again in beating Kendricks to the world indoor title in Birmingham in March.

The story may be entirely different, of course, if two hugely talented Polish vaulters can make it so. Pawel Wojciechowski has something Lavillenie hasn’t – a world outdoor title from 2011 – and showed in last month’s Lausanne Diamond League meeting, where he cleared a season’s best of 5.84m behind the Frenchman’s winning 5.91m, that he still has what it takes.

As does his compatriot Piotr Lisek, world silver medallist last year as well as European indoor champion. He also took world indoor bronze in March and arrives fresh from breaking Wojciechowski’s Polish outdoor record with a 5.94m clearance in Wittenberg, Germany.

Wojciechowski is not the only former world champion contending. Germany's 2013 world champion Raphael Holzdeppe, who has cleared 5.88m indoors this season, is also prominent on the world lists while former world indoor champion Konstadinos Filippidis is another consistent big-time performer. Also watch out for Authorised Neutral Athlete Timur Morgunov who has cleared 5.92m this year.

Former European high jump champion Bogdan Bondarenko is one of the big name absentees from the championships due to injury but Ukraine will have their own 2.40m performer in Andrii Protsenko, the silver medallist behind Bondarenko in Zurich 2014.

In a wide open competition, Belarus will have two strong contenders: Dzmitry Nabokau and Maksim Nedasekau. Nabokau improved the Belarusian record to 2.36m earlier this season and Nedasekau will be looking for his first senior medal after winning the European U20 title last year with a championship record of 2.33m.

Elsewhere, Poland’s European indoor champion Sylvester Bednarek has jumped 2.33m indoors this season and Greece’s Konstadinos Baniotis and Germany’s world indoor bronze medallist Mateusz Przybylko have both cleared 2.31m.

Meanwhile reigning champion Gianmarco Tamberi, rebuilding his career after the horrendous ankle injury he sustained in Monaco shortly after setting an Italian record of 2.39m on the eve of the Olympic Games in 2016, is back in competitive mode, as he showed with a clearance of 2.27m.*

Azerbaijan’s Alexis Copello will fancy his medal chances in the triple jump having reached 17.24m this season but one place below him on the European lists for the season is Portugal’s 34-year-old Nelson Evora, the 2007 world champion and 2008 Olympic champion who is still on the search for his first European outdoor medal.

Evora has enjoyed more success at continental level indoors, successfully defending his European indoor title in Belgrade last season. He has jumped 17.05m this season.

Evora will be far from the oldest triple jumper competing given the presence of the 41-year-old Italian who took a European indoor silver behind him last year, Fabrizio Donato. He made his debut at the championships sixteen years ago in Munich when he finished fourth and won European gold medal in Helsinki a decade later with a wind-assisted 17.63m

Two other veterans are in the triple jump line-up: Romania’s Marian Oprea and Great Britain’s Nathan Douglas. Oprea, 36, will be competing in his seventh successive European Championships and has a season’s best of 16.60m indoors while former European silver medallist Douglas, 35, recently won the British title with a marginally wind-aided 16.83m.

At the other end of the age spectrum is 22-year-old reigning champion Max Hess. The German has a creditable season's best of 16.95m but he only finished sixth at the German Championships last month.

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Radek Juska of the Czech Republic leads this year’s long jump European lists with 8.27m with Greece’s European U20 champion Miltiadis Tentoglou second on 8.24m.

It looks like being one of the most open finals of the championships, although Sweden’s 32-year-old Michel Torneus, who has managed 7.83m this season, could change that if he can tap into the competitive intensity that saw him clear 8.44 two years ago.

Greg Rutherford was hoping to become the first male long jumper to win three European long jump titles in succession but the Brit has been struggling with an ankle injury all season and took the decision to forego his title defence.

*Since publishing this preview, European leader Danil Lysenko's Authorised Neutral Athlete (ANA) status has been revoked by the IAAF and he will not be eligible to compete at the European Championships