RENAUD Lavillenie looks increasingly likely to ensure Steve Hooker does not claim another gold in the Olympic Games pole vault.

Lavillenie has emerged as France’s main Olympic gold medal hope – and the man most likely to ensure Hooker misses back-to-back Games wins – after a masterful pole-vaulting display before the London event in just a few months.

In cold, blustery conditions, the 24-year-old from Clermont won a high-level competition with a best of 5.90m, a record for the Golden Spike meet and a world-leading mark.

“It was a great start to the season,” Lavillenie said of his winning vault.

“I’m not unbeatable, but it’s a good response to (Bjorn) Otto (who had set the previous world lead of 5.83m last week).”

Lavillenie, who won the world indoor title in Istanbul in March from Otto, added: “I’ve never vaulted so high for my outdoor season-opener. I remained in control and demonstrated that I learnt some lessons from Daegu (where he won bronze).

“My goal coming into this competition was to set a new meet record, which I did when I went over at 5.78m. What came after was the cherry on the cake.

“At the start of an Olympic season, I nailed a 5.90m to send out a message to my rivals.”

His run to form could not have come at a better time.

Defending Olympic champion Hooker is still to recover his true form after an injury-plagued couple of seasons.

Lavillenie’s main competition now seems likely to come from German duo Otto and Malte Mohr, Poland’s Pawel Wojciechowski and Cuban Lazaro Borges — the last two the surprise gold and silver medallists at last year’s Daegu world championships in South Korea.


Renaud Lavillenie

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