LONDON, UK – 14 men are through to the final of the Pole Vault which takes place on Friday evening. The bookmakers have France’s Renaud Lavillenie as the hot favourite, but will be crossing their fingers for a similar scenario to the women’s competition, which saw Russian heroine Yelena Isinbayeva get beaten at odds-on.
On Wednesday the qualifying height was set to 5.50, but with only a set number allowed to progress to Friday’s final, several competitors had to to jump 5.60 just to book their ticket – the two casualties were USA’s Jeremy Scott (runner-up in the last two outdoor national championships) and Cuba’s Lazaro Borges, who took silver at the 2011 world championships with an impressive 5.90.
The favourite to take gold at the London 2012 Olympics is the Frenchman Renaud Lavillenie, who is best-priced at 11/10 (bet £10 to make £11 profit) with Coral and Ladbrokes. The 25-year-old has twice been a European champion in the pole vault and holds the French indoor (6.03) and outdoor (6.01) national records. He was crowned indoor world champion this year with a 5.95, just after a nasty injury, but he did flop in Daegu last year, failing to clear 5.90.
He is the most talented of this bunch, but at the time of writing France has just one silver medal in athletics at the Olympics so there will be an enormous amount of pressure on Lavillenie’s shoulders. Ukraine’s Sergey Bubka, who still holds the outdoor world record at 6.14, believes the Frenchman is a strong favourite for this and can one day break his records. In Paris (indoor), Lavillenie had three cracks at 6.16 and came very close.
With only three attempts at each height, this competition can throw up surprises. Lavillenie will be hoping to grab gold for his backers, and has even trained in the rain to maximise his chances in London, but the fact is he is a very short price for a bronze medallist at the last world championships.
Germany’s Bjorn Otto is the second favourite at 13/2 with Stan James, who should have plenty of energy for this having only needed to clear 5.50 on Wednesday to qualify. Otto got the silver medal in the indoor championships in Istanbul with a 5.80, but he failed in his three attempts at 5.90. Last month in Helsinki he got a personal best with 5.92 to take the silver medal position behind Lavillenie, and with the pressure on the Frenchman to deliver, it would be no surprise to see Otto better his PB and take a medal from these Olympics. The best each-way terms are with Ladbrokes who have the German at 6/1 and are paying three places at one fifth of the win odds.
The one for money following qualifying was 2008 Olympic champion Steven Hooker. Hooker feels very good ahead of the final and his Olympic experience put him right in the mix here, especially if Lavillenie flops again. The Australian has been in poor form for a while now, at the last world championships he ran under the bar three times, but his odds of 15/2 with Stan James reflect that. A knee injury has had him down in the dumps for 18 months, but qualifying for Friday’s final will do him the world of good. He should be bang there, but may not have what it takes to grab gold – two weeks ago he was a 28/1 shot.
Otto’s compatriot Malte Mohr also sailed through to the final with one jump at 5.50 and is the next choice for punters at 9/1 with Ladbrokes and bet365. He finished fourth in Helsinki last month, failing to clear 5.82, and that form leaves him with plenty of find. However prior to Helsinki Mohr cleared 5.91, impressive considering he had been held up in a traffic jam prior to competing, and on season bests that puts him third, so he will be looking for at least a bronze medal.
Another to have cleared the mark of 5.90 this season, is USA’s Brad Walker, who is 14/1 with Stan James but is as short as 7/1 in places. The 31-year-old had been expected to medal in Beijing four years ago, but he failed to even make it through to the final, but he has made it in London after clearing 5.60. His father Tom believes that Brad is much more positive now and is going to break the Olympic record of 5.96 – and Brad is going ot be buoyed by the fact that fellow American Jennifer Suhr beat Isinbayeva in the women’s competition this week. His personal best is 6.04, which puts him in with a shout of gold, and he looks great value for his 14/1 quote.
It is a big gap in betting terms to the rest of the field, but Team GB’s hope is Steven Lewis, a 28/1 shot with Coral. His PB is 5.82 so the Stoke-on-Trent lad is unlikely to get a medal.
The Men’s Pole Vault final begins at 7.00pm BST on Friday 10 August.
By: Tristan Wootton