Renaud Lavillenie’s campaign at the 2013 European Indoor Championships in Gothenburg ended inauspiciously after his 6.07m clearance was deemed invalid and his campaign for a fourth title in Prague very nearly began on a similar note.
Lavillenie had cleared six metres or higher in four competitions prior to the Prague 2015 European Athletics Indoor Championships but the Frenchman found the usually benign height of 5.70m in the qualification round unusually taxing.
The only vaulter to enter the competition at the automatic qualifying height, Lavillenie put himself in a perilous position after chalking up two failures at 5.70m but the world record-holder avoided the dreaded ‘NH’ appearing next to his name on the results sheet by going clear on his third and final attempt.
And more importantly: Lavillenie kept his prospects of winning a fourth successive European indoor pole vault title intact.
While his performance in the qualifying round demonstrated Lavillenie’s nerve, his performance in the final was a demonstration in efficiency as well as athleticism.
Lavillenie returned to the 02 Arena the following day with his confidence seemingly unshaken, opting to enter the final at an even higher height than he did in qualifying. He opened his account by flying clear at 5.75m and his second vault of the final secured him a fourth successive title in the event, soaring over 5.90m on his first attempt again.
After dispatching the best of Europe with the minimum of energy expended, Lavillenie turned his focus to ameliorating his records. Vaulting in front of a capacity audience in the Czech capital, Lavillenie eclipsed his championship record by one centimetre with a second-time clearance at 6.04m before raising the bar to a world record of 6.17m, his second attempt proving the closest of the three.
"I was lacking a bit of energy, and only 99 percent is not enough to do a new world record,” said Lavillenie after the final.
Lavillenie had wrapped up his fourth successive title in commanding fashion. He made his international breakthrough by winning in Turin in 2009 before embellishing his reputation with gold medals in 2011 and 2013, clearing 6.03m and 6.01m respectively. Lavillenie also won three successive European outdoor titles between 2010 and 2014 as well as bronze in the legendary final at the 2018 European Championships in Berlin.
Lavillenie was at the height of his powers in 2014-15 but his European indoor title in Prague represents his last major European title. Injuries forced Lavillenie to miss the 2017 and 2019 European Indoor Championships and he succumbed to the blustery conditions at the 2016 European Championships in Amsterdam where he no-heighted in the final.