It is almost two years since Renaud Lavillenie last won a major gold medal but the defence of the one crown he now wears could be in the making.
Competing in front of a home crowd in Bordeaux, Lavillenie showed how class remains permanent with a brilliant performance in his first pole vault competition of the year, winning with a European leading clearance of 5.80m - the 148th time Lavillenie has cleared 5.80m or higher in his venerable career.
It puts him joint second on the world list this year with Andrew Irwin – the lists are led by another America Kyle Pater with 5.82m – as Lavillenie showed that at 33 he remains such a force.
His victory at the World Athletics Indoor Championships in Birmingham in March 2018 came with a clearance of 5.90m and if Lavillenie maintains the start he has made, another title in Nanjing in a few weeks' time could become a big target.
— European Athletics (@EuroAthletics) January 18, 2020
His brother Valentin - the sole Lavillenie in the pole vault final at the World Championships in Doha - and Italy’s Claudio Stecchi both went over at 5.73m as Renaud triumphed with his second attempt at 5.80m before ending his competition. It could be the beginning of a special time again for a man who remains the benchmark that the others aspire to match.
And one of those who could also be chasing major honours this year is Poland’s Pawel Wojciechowski, the reigning European indoor champion. He returned from injury to win at home in Spala with 5.30m.
Bengtsson opens season with a 4.67m clearance; Ugen sets world lead in Clemson
Swedish national record-holder Angelica Bengtsson also made an eye-catching debut at the Quality Hotel Games in Vaxjo on Saturday (18). She cleared 4.67m on her first attempt in the pole vault before three attempts at 4.75m.
Her next competition will be the Just Pole Vault meeting in Stockholm next weekend. She is also due to compete at the Sparet GP in Stockholm and the Swedish Indoor Championships next month.
Competing for the first time in eleven months, Khaddi Sagnia made a promising comeback from injury. She won the long jump - the event in which she jointly holds the national indoor record with 6.92m - with 6.67m ahead of reigning European U20 100m hurdles champion Tilde Johansson’s 6.25m. Johansson did win the 60m hurdles with 8.38 though.
Sagnia's comeback performance was slightly eclipsed by former European indoor bronze medallist Lorraine Ugen who set an early season world leading mark of 6.74m in Clemson, South Carolina on Friday (17) evening.
Two Greek records tumble in the United States; Vadlejch breaks Slovakian indoor pentathlon record
There might be over 1000 miles between Iowa City and Staten Island in the United States but Greek indoor records were set in both venues at the weekend.
Competing in the shot put at the Larry Wieczorek Invitational in Iowa, Nicholas Scarvelis took hold of the mark with an effort of 20.38m, two centimetres more than the record he shared with Mihail Stamatoyiannis as he finished second behind the USA’s Nick Ponzio (20.72m).
On Staten Island, Andreas Dimitrakis became the first Greek athlete in history to break four minutes for the mile indoors with 3:59.22 on his debut at the distance.
New World Number ☝️
Andreas Dimitrakis runs 3:59.22 in the mile to set the top time at the NYC Gotham Cup! pic.twitter.com/86Kbbeto3x
— Ocean Breeze Park & Athletic Complex (@OBTFAC) January 17, 2020
Back home, Eleni-Klaoudia Polak still has some way to go to eclipse Ekaterini Stefanidi’s mark of 4.90m in the pole vault but the European finalist moved to third on the Greek all-time list with a clearance of 4.65m in Athens to break her personal best by 15 centimetres. She also had two attempts at 4.70m.
One of the best performances of the weekend in the Czech Republic came in Ostrava where Slovakian Lucia Vadlejch – the wife of Czech javelin thrower Jakub – broke the national pentathlon record with a score of 4488 points.
Vadlejch’s individual performances were: 8.54 in the 60m hurdles, 1.81m in the high jump, 11.32m in the shot put, an excellent 6.44m in the long jump and 2:15.56 in the 800m.
In Prague, Lada Vondrova, the European U23 400m silver medallist from last summer, was almost just as busy, competing four times at an open meeting. She broke the national record for the 500m indoors with 1:09.54, set personal bests of 37.89m in the 300m and 17.92 in the 150m. She also clocked 18.14 in a separate 150m race.
Seven years might have passed since Asmir Kolasinac won the European indoor shot put title in Gothenburg but the Serbian is still throwing at a very high level at the age of 35. Three weeks after breaking his national indoor record with 21.06m in Belgrade, Kolasinac approached this mark in the Serbian capital on Saturday with a best effort of 21.01m, the joint third best throw of his career indoors or outdoors.
On the track, there were two Serbian records for the Kijanovic brothers. Aleksa won the 60m in a Serbian senior record of 6.70 and Bosko finished second in a national U23 record of 6.74.
In Istanbul, Umut Uysal improved his Turkish indoor U20 record to 6.69.