Hooker’s defense starts to fade

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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