Lavillenie and Aldama fly the flag for Europe in Istanbul | 10.03.2012
France's Renaud Lavillenie and Great Britain's Yamile Aldama struck gold for Europe on the second day of the World Indoor Championships in Istanbul on Saturday.
Lavillenie added to his European pole vault titles, indoors and outdoors, when he cleared a 2012 world-leading height 5.95m.
In the end, his first time clearance at 5.85m would have actually sufficed for the gold medal but Lavillenie could never be quite sure of victory in the enthralling competition until three heights later.
Three men remained at 5.85m after Germany's Björn Otto and American vaulter Brad Walker had gone over 5.80m with their second attempts, mirroring Lavillenie's success at that height.
However, having seen Lavillenie go straight over 5.85m and with a medal of some colour secure the pair opted to pass and go straight to 5.90m, which Lavillenie cleared at the second time of asking and where Otto had three failures before eventually securing the silver medal.
Walker had two unsuccessful attempts at 5.90m but then decided to save his one remaining effort for the next height. However, Lavillenie also cleared that with his first jump and so the game of pole vault poker continued up to 6.00m.
Lavillenie and Walker failed with the first efforts at that height, so the American was eliminated, before the Frenchman took his two remaining unsuccessful efforts at 6.02m.
"I'm very happy that a good performance came alongside the title. The competition didn't go as I expected as I did a few mistakes in the beginning but I managed to sort them out," reflected Lavillenie, after his first global title.
"When I cleared 5.95m, I was so relieved, I remembered that I had broken my hand in training just three months ago and the emotion all came back to me. I did some good things at 6.00m and 6.02, which is interesting for the future, he added, suggesting that his French record of 6.03m could be in jeopardy this summer.
Aldama became the oldest field event winner in the history of the Championships when she leapt out to the European-leading mark of 14.82m in the second round of the women's triple jump contest and no one could get within 19 centimetres of the distance.
"Better late than never. It has been a long road to get her but it is now worth it," joked the 39-year-old British jumper.
"This is my first world title, 12 years after I got a silver medal outdoors in Sevilla. I am very happy with my distance although I could also have jumped further. I had a problem approaching the board in the third round and did not want to risk it as I have the summer season (to come). This gold is for my Mom and my children," added Aldama.
European athletes got 14 other medals, in addition to the two triumphs, on the second day of the Championships: nine silver medals and five bronze medals.
Inevitably there was a mixture of surprises, of both the positive and negative variety; with no better example being the women's high jump.
Sweden's Ebba Jungmark was one of three European jumpers tied for second place in the event, the trio clearing 1.95m behind the 1.98m achieved by the American jumper Chaunté Howard.
"I am so happy to have won my first world championship medal, and it's on my birthday as well. My parents are here and I'm going to celebrate with them and the whole of the Swedish team," said the delighted Swede, who also won a bronze medal 12 months ago at the 2012 European Athletics Indoor Championships.
By contrast, Russia's Anna Chicherova - with the other silver medallist being Italy's Antonietta Di Martino - was the overwhelming favourite for the event but caused gasps around the arena when she brought the bar down three times at 1.98m.
"Today was not my day. Having cleared 2.06m this season and clearing 2.00m in every other meeting this winter, I thought I could clear 2.00m here and I thought that could be good enough for the gold medal.
"However, at the start of the season, I had the plan not to come to the World Indoors and recently I had some problems with my leg as well. Maybe I should have listened to my inner self," reflected disappointed the outdoor world champion, whose 10 meeting winning streak also came to an end in Istanbul.
It impossible to relate the tales of all the other European medallists is Istanbul but there are two other are certainly worthy of mention.
Turkey's İlham Tanui Özbilen, the fastest European 1500m over the distance this year, got huge roars from the crowd as he got the host nation's best ever result at the Championships when he finished second at his favourite distance.
Tanui took the lead just after 1000m after a tactical opening five laps, which saw the leading running jostle for position, and held it until just a few metres before the line.
He was just edged out of getting a gold medal which would certainly have raised the rafters of the Ataköy Athletics Arena by Morocco's Abdelaati Iguider, which the pair clocking 3:45.21 and 3:45.35 respectively.
"It was a wonderful feeling to have all those people cheering for me. I felt so much at home. It was a good race from my point of view but in the last few metres I just tired a little too much," said Tanui.
He was also pipped to the honour of becoming Turkey's first ever medallist at the Championships by his female compatriot Asli Cakir, who won the 1500m bronze medal barely an hour earlier.
"I'm delighted as I know this is a historical medal for Turkey. My target was just to be in the final so getting a medal was a big surprise," said the inspired Cakir, who came through strongly on the last lap to clock a national indoor record of 4:08.74.
"I felt the energy and the power from the audience, on some of the bends the energy from the crowd was so strong and this pushed me further and further. Now I think I have a chance of a medal at the European Athletics Championships in Helsinki as well," she added, her optimism boosted by being the first European home in her race.
Full event-by-event reports can be found here.