Height of glory

LOVE OF POLE VAULT. Renaud Lavillenie gets set to compete in the men's pole vault final of the 2015 European Indoor Championships in Prague, Czech Republic, on March 7.-GETTY IMAGES

Renaud Lavillenie is in awe of Sergey Bubka. He believes that the chances of eclipsing the legendary pole vaulter’s feats are remote. “He did really good. To be able to win six World Championships is just crazy,” says the world indoor record holder. By G. Viswanath.

Ranked World No. 1 for the fifth straight year, Renaud Lavillenie is a phenomenon in pole vault. The flying Frenchman is regarded as the shortest and lightest athlete to soar into the stratosphere and record some stunning feats.

The 28-year-old pole vaulter, a gold medallist at the 2012 London Olympics, a three-time European champion, winner of five successive IAAF Diamond League, and winner of many gold medals in World and European outdoor and indoor championships, is hoping to make the 15th IAAF World Championships (Beijing, August 22-30, 2015) a memorable one by winning his first title at the meet.

Lavillenie, the IAAF Athlete of the Year in 2014, has a personal best of 6.02 metres outdoor (2012), and 6.16 metres indoor (2014) — which, incidentally, is a world record.

Lavillenie went to the previous World Championships in Moscow (2013) as the favourite to win the gold, but had to settle for a silver medal. Earlier, at the World Championships in Berlin (2009) and Daegu (2011), he had won bronze medals.

“My major priority is the gold medal in Beijing. It was disappointing to get the silver in Moscow,” Lavillenie told Track & Field recently.

Responding to queries from sports journalists across the world in a teleconference arranged by the IAAF recently, Lavillenie said: “It’s the biggest goal, but not the only goal. I have different goals for 2015; the first one is to be able to win the gold medal in Beijing. I want to win the Diamond League again and improve my personal best in outdoor, which is 6.02m. It will be an interesting season because I am really focussed on the Rio Olympics.”

When Sportstar asked him if legend Sergey Bubka’s six World Championship wins and 35 world record-breaking feats (17 outdoor and 18 indoor) will ever go down, Lavillenie said categorically: “I don’t think there is a chance. He did really good.

"To be able to win six World Championships is just crazy; and I may be able to win one title. Each of his world record was over 5.80m and next one was many centimetres higher. During his 12 years, I can’t say it was easy, but when you do 6.15m, the potential to go higher every time is much difficult.”

Bubka had said that Lavillenie has the skill to conquer 6.17m. To this, the Frenchman said, “Definitely I may be able to jump 6.17m. But the question is when I can do it because when you are outdoors, it is difficult because of the wind and weather conditions. I will try to do my best, because this winter I was close to making it a few times.”

There have been suggestions to reduce the number of attempts at each height from four to two, or six overall. Lavillenie, however, did not agree with this view. “I don’t think it’s a good idea honestly. If you change rules, you need to make a new WR and the height will be definitely different.

We have to push ourselves to jump high. With less attempts, it will be very, very hard. Fifty years ago or more, rules were made. If we change them, it will be hard for our sport because our sport is a very hard, technical event. It will be hard for us if we get injured after one jump.”

Why did Lavillenie take up pole vault?

“My father was doing well in pole vault, and from the beginning I wanted to be like my father. Then I fell in love with the sport. It’s very competitive and also very interesting because we have to run as fast as possible with the pole in our hand and then try to fly very high.

"The feeling when we have the pole and pushing hard to fly is very good. And when you get this feeling, you don’t want to leave it and you still want to continue. So for me, I love it, and I feel (like) jumping all the time.”