A week before he begins the defence of his world indoor crown in Birmingham, Frenchman Renaud Lavillenie had an afternoon he will long remember in Clermont-Ferrand at the All Star Perche, a European Athletics Indoor Permit Meeting, on Sunday (25).
He did not win - that honour went to reigning world outdoor champion Sam Kendricks from the United States - but the Frenchman walked away bursting with pride after helping to stage one of the greatest pole vault competitions in history.
His height of 5.93m was the same as Kendricks - the pair sharing the world lead heading into the World Indoor Championships - while Sweden’s Armand ‘Mondo’ Duplantis regained the world indoor U20 record on a day for the record books.
And as American Katie Nageotte won the women’s competition on countback from Russian indoor champion Anzhelika Sidorova with 4.86m, Ninon Guillon-Romarin delighted the home crowd with a French national record of 4.72m in third.
No wonder at the end of the day, Lavillenie tweeted: “The @allstarperche becomes the greatest pole vault ever in history with 7 men at 5m88. Proud to have organised this event and to finish 2nd with 5m93. Thank you all.”
Le @allstarperche devient le plus gros concours de saut a la perche mondiale de l’histoire avec 7 hommes a 5m88. Une fierté d’avoir organisé cet événement et de finir 2eme avec 5m93.
Merci à tous !!!!!!!!!! pic.twitter.com/sAeJcAJP6x
— Renaud LAVILLENIE® (@airlavillenie) February 25, 2018
It was equally historic as seven men cleared 5.88m or higher with Kendricks edging out the Frenchman on countback, adding spice to their confrontation in Birmingham where Lavillenie will be chasing a third world indoor gold (he was also champion in 2012).
In London, he won a bronze medal and no doubt will look to make up for that, heading to the championships primed for more glory.
Lavillenie, who missed last year’s European Athletics Indoor Championships in Belgrade with injury, told lesechos.fr: “It's always a little frustrating to lose. My season is building and I am starting to have some very high benchmarks, and next week the World Indoor Championships should be of a very high standard. I hope to be successful.”
— guill@ume (@Gyom63) February 25, 2018
Behind Kendricks and Lavillenie, the next five men all cleared 5.88m, separated only on countback: Poland’s Pawel Wojciechowski, France’s Axel Chapelle, Duplantis, Poland’s Piotr Lisek and France’s Kevin Menaldo whose third-time clearance was also a lifetime best.
Last year’s champion Shawn Barber from Canada had to settle for eighth despite clearing 5.81m.
The standard of competition was such that the performances of Duplantis, Lisek and Menaldo were the best marks ever recorded - indoors or outdoors - for fifth, sixth and seventh respectively.
It was some competition with Lavillenie clearing a world-leading mark of 5.93m at the third attempt to join Kendricks before they both attempted 5.98m.
But Duplantis achieved the individual record of the day as he regained the world indoor U20 record he had lost two weeks ago. Earlier this month at the Greek Indoor Championships in Pireas, Emmanouil Karalis had overtaken Duplantis with 5.78m but the Swede has it back, having first taken it with 5.81m here before progressing to 5.88m.
— guill@ume (@Gyom63) February 25, 2018
Set in the middle of the arena, the pole vault strip has the athletes surrounded by crowds on either side, what excitement there was when Duplantis went over at 5.88m, as he punched the air before he was congratulated by his fellow competitors.
Based in the United States, Duplantis’ mark was also an American High School record along with being a Swedish indoor record to go with the brilliant outdoor mark he set in 2017 when he went even higher, with his 5.90m in Austin, Texas.
In the women’s competition, both Nageotte and Sidorova cleared 4.86m before attempting a world lead of 4.92m. In third, Guillon-Romarin took sole charge of the national indoor record having equalled it with 4.71m last month in Orleans, a height she shared with Marion Fiack.
— Olivia Dallongeville (@ODallongeville) February 25, 2018
It was a day of mixed fortunes for Ukraine’s Maryna Kylypko. She also broke her country’s national indoor record with 4.62m but as she tried at 4.72m, she fell badly on her back and had to go to hospital. She was released and is expected to return home today.
Belarusian Iryna Zhuk also made history as her 4.62m was a national record as well.