Frenchman Renaud Lavillenie has confirmed the promise of a wonderful pole vaulting season, by claiming a famous Olympic gold medal in London.
The 25 year-old broke his hand last December and had to have surgery, before returning to competitive action in February of this year after an extensive recovery programme.
He immediately won the gold medal in the World Indoor Championships, with his clearance of 5.95m comfortably beating runner-up Bjorn Otto, who managed just 5.80m.
After a pulsating battle with Otto in Helsinki early last month, Lavillenie successfully defended his European title, having looked in trouble early in the competition. He had two failed attempts at 5.82m, but eventually got the better of his German opponent, with first time clearances over 5.87m, 5.92m and finally 5.97m.
Indeed, tonight’s event had many similarities. Otto cleared 5.91m stylishly, following in the footsteps of his younger team-mate Raphael Holzdeppe. Lavillenie, on the other hand, failed on his first attempt at that height, appearing to struggle for speed.
As the German duo began to struggle upped to 5.97m, Lavillenie decided to attempt that height also, despite having failed his one and only attempt at 5.91m. Another fail ensued and the pressure was on. Yet, such pressure is what Lavillenie has come to thrive upon. On what could potentially have been his final vault of the games, the naturally talented athlete vaulted 5.97 perfectly. That secured pole position, but it also meant a new Olympic Record.
Meanwhile, Holzdeppe failed on all three of his 5.97m attempts, but his 5.91 vault had cemented him a personal best and a bronze medal to boot.
It was Lavillenie versus Otto again. The latter, however, was now on the back foot. He had failed at 5.97m twice, but knowing that Lavillenie had successfully cleared that height, had to attempt 6.02m. Such an attempt was brave, but ultimately forlorn. Lavillenie had won gold.
With gold metaphorically around his neck, Lavillenie attempted 6.02m and 6.07m, but failed with his three attempts.
Lavillenie’s consistency and improvement has been nothing short of prestigious and who would bet against the cool, calm and collected Frenchman defending gold in 2016?
Image courtesy of allomatch.com