Ahead of the European Athletics U18 Championships in Gyor, Hungary from 5-8 July, we will be speaking to some outstanding young athletes who look set to star at the second edition of the event this summer.
Sweden’s Armand Duplantis is not the only Scandinavian pole vaulter breaking records for fun at the moment. Norway’s Pål Haugen Lillefosse is 16 but he has already improved his national U18 record from 5.31m to 5.46m this season and leads the world U18 list in the event. Lillefosse is also a very accomplished sprinter and hasn’t ruled out contesting the 100m in Gyor as well.
When did you start athletics and how did you get into the pole vault?
I started doing athletics in first grade at school when I was seven years old and I did all kind of events, no matter what the results were. I did two or three track training sessions a week as well as playing football twice a week.
The pole vault was actually kind of random. Since I started athletics, I thought the pole vault was an awesome event and when I was 10 years old, I had a private training session with my sister after a guy came towards me and asked me if I wanted to try this amazing event. This was my old coach whose name was Paavo Moilanen. This is how I started with the pole vault.
What is your favourite thing about the event?
What I like the most about the pole vault is there are so many abilities you need to have or learn. The workouts never get boring, because there is always something that can get better: getting faster or stronger, getting better mentally or technically when jumping. My workouts are so varied because there are so many small details that need to be good.
What are your favourite and least favourite training sessions?
My favourite training session is of course the vaulting sessions and I jump three times a week. My least favourite session is the long distance running workouts. Luckily for me we don’t have those sessions too often!
Who is your sporting hero and why?
To be honest I don’t really have a sporting hero but if I had to pick one athlete that has inspired me to do great stuff, it might be Mondo Duplantis. He has proved that you can still jump extremely high and do great things no matter what your age is - for example, he jumped his PB of 5.92m and he is only 18 years old. That kind of motivates me to do the exact same thing. I want to break barriers.
Ahead of the European U18 Championships, we will be profiling some outstanding young athletes who will be competing in Gyor.
Meet 16-year-old Pal Haugen Lillefosse who has already cleared 5.46m in the pole vault and clocked 10.68 for 100m. https://t.co/Md2DggHAOt pic.twitter.com/wwZyYjn7ft
— European Athletics (@EuroAthletics) April 13, 2018
What is your proudest sporting achievement so far?
My proudest sporting moment so far is when I won the European Youth Olympic Festival in Gyor in 2017. Even though I didn’t do my best in the competition, I was able to keep calm and take the gold medal. That is something I will take with me all my life.
Do you have any other talents apart from the pole vault?
Pole vault is definitely what I am best at but I’m also a very fast runner. In 2017, I ran a 100m time of 10.68. With that time I was the third best European runner in my age that year.
Can you tell us a little bit about your domestic rivalry with Sondre Guttormsen?
Sondre and I have for many years competed against each other. All the way down to the 4.00m jumps we have jumped approximately the same and pushed each other to greater heights. Even though we are not the same age I think it’s good to have someone to fight against no matter at what level. And beside from the pole vaulting and being rivals, we are good friends and we travel together sometimes.
What are your expectations at the European Athletics U18 Championships in Gyor?
I think the European U18 Championships in Gyor this year will be amazing. For most of us this is one of our first major competitions and most of us have a goal to stand on the top of the podium. I hope I can go into the competition in Gyor being in a great shape and deliver my very best, and maybe do a personal best. If I do so I think it’s possible to win the competition.
Away from athletics, what do you like to do?
Except for track and field, I like to hang out with my mates, go to the cinema, go bowling or just chill out. But I do have a bad habit: I watch a lot of boxsets and spend way too many hours on my computer.
What music are you listening to at the moment, and what is your favourite workout track?
I mostly listen to pop music and rap. In training sessions, I especially like listening to Eminem and music that motivates.
What was the last film you saw?
The last movie a saw was the Maze Runner, the Death Cure.
What is your favourite app?
My favourite app might be Instagram.
How can fans follow you on social media?
It’s possible to follow me on Instagram, my username is @paallillefosse.
Many thanks to Morten Olsen at the Norges Friidrettsforbund for helping us to conduct the interview