WEST DES MOINES, IA. — Replace 80,000 fans in Olympic Stadium with several hundred spectators inside Jordan Creek Town Center and it was sort of like London all over again.
Eight months after Renaud Lavillenie of France and German Bjorn Otto pushed the bar higher than any other athletes could reach at the Olympics, the top two pole vaulters on the planet competed again Wednesday in the middle of a throng of shoppers until they were the last men soaring toward the mall’s second floor.
“It’s a big battle (competing against Lavillenie),” Otto, the 2012 Olympic silver medalist, said after breaking the Pole Vault at the Mall record by clearing 19-0¼ to beat the London gold medalist. “Today I win and it’s a good feeling.”
This was the rematch before the rematch. Otto and Lavillenie will headline Saturday’s field in the men’s pole vault London Games Rematch at the Drake Relays.
“They’re consistently good,” said American pole vaulter Mark Hollis, who finished fourth Wednesday. “It’s trying to take away why that is, why they can come out every meet and jump high and compete the way they do. (I’m) trying to take little things from them, but also compete with them and use that to fuel the fire.”
Cuban Yarisley Silva, the 2012 Olympic silver medalist, won the women’s division Wednesday with a mall-record vault of 15-9¾ to finish ahead of Americans Mary Saxer and Kylie Hutson, who cleared 15-1.
“I’ve competed with her a bunch,” Saxer said of Silva. “Every time I see her she’s so happy and easygoing. She’s an inspiration. She has fun with it and she’s doing so well.”
Jenn Suhr, the 2012 Olympic gold medalist, did not compete Wednesday but is expected to be in the field Friday night at Drake Stadium.