For world record-holder Renaud Lavillenie, victory at the IAAF World Indoor Championships in 2012 proved a pivotal step on his path to Olympic gold.
The Frenchman will be hoping for a similar result this year as he looks to reclaim the first of those two titles in Portland. To do so, however, he will have to overcome what is arguably the strongest field of any event at these championships.
Once again, Lavillenie tops the world lists entering the event, having broken the six-metre barrier in both Clermont-Ferrand (6.02m) and Jablonec (6.03m) in recent weeks. However the 29-year-old has been in this position several times before, and facing a line-up which is worthy of an Olympic final, he will take nothing for granted.
His most recent defeat came last month in Berlin, where his best clearance of 5.85m came up short against Brazil’s Thiago Braz, who set an area record of 5.93m. Though Braz was world junior champion in 2012, he has yet to reach the podium at senior level, and with a home Olympics looming in less than five months’ time, the 22-year-old will be keen to make a statement to both his rivals and his fans back home when he takes to the runway in Portland.
This event, though, is no head-to-head contest, as world champion Shawn Barber of Canada will be seeking to back up the gold he won in Beijing last year. Barber set a national record earlier this year, soaring over 6.00m on his first attempt to take victory at the pole vault summit in Reno. Barber was beaten by Lavillenie when they clashed on French soil last month – clearing 5.91m to Lavillenie’s 6.02m – but the 21-year-old will feel more at home competing in Portland as he is based in the US for much of the year.
However, true home advantage will rest squarely on the shoulders of Sam Kendricks, who cleared a personal best of 5.90m to take the US title at the Oregon Convention Center last Friday night, launching himself into medal contention ahead of this weekend’s showpiece event.
Greece’s Konstadinos Filippidis, meanwhile, enters as the reigning champion – having cleared 5.80m to win in Sopot two years ago – and the 29-year-old looks set to launch a stout defence of his title after setting a national record of 5.84m on his most recent outing in Clermont-Ferrand.
Of the rest, Polish duo Robert Sobera and Piotr Lisek and Japan’s Seito Yamamoto have all cleared 5.77m this year and look the most likely to challenge for the medals.