Renaud Lavillenie dominates the pole vault in the way that Usain Bolt at his best rules on the track.
However, he is barely known outside France or athletics despite breaking the world record with a clearance the equivalent of the height of one-and-a-half London double decker buses and a monopoly in recent seasons that an out-of-sorts Bolt can only currently dream of.
Next month, Lavillenie, arguably one of the planet’s most underrated sports stars, will return to the capital where he was crowned Olympic champion and believes the opportunity to break his world record of 6.16metres is there.
“I think I’ve got a chance this season,” said the 28-year-old. “I’ve never cleared heights like 6.05m at the beginning of the season like I did in Eugene [the world’s only clearance above six metres outdoors this season]. However, this is not my first goal. My goal is to win in Monaco and London at the AnniversaryGames and at the World Championships in Beijing.
“The goal is not performance or how high. Even if I only clear 5.85m that is not a problem as long as I win.”
In truth, athletics could market Lavillenie infinitely better, such has been his domination with the seven biggest clearances of the indoor season. No one came close.
So does he feel that, at his best, he is unbeatable? “If the conditions are right and I jump to my best, for sure, I feel I have a little difference on my rivals,” he says without a hint of arrogance. “But the fun of the pole vault is that you never know what is going to happen.”
It is remarkable that Lavillenie has never been world champion and righting that wrong is his No1 goal for this season.
But before then he comes to London at the end of next month, as with Bolt, the scene of his crowning glory back in 2012.
“That Olympics is something I still can’t stop thinking about,” he said. “Being able to be the best that I can possibly be in the main moment of your career is so special. That’s why I’m happy to be coming back to this place.”
Unlike the diver Tom Daley, who admits to feeling the fear every time he is at the top of the 10m platform, Lavillenie laughs at the idea of being worried in competition, unsurprisingly perhaps when he can seemingly clear six metres at will.
Despite the ease of him in full flight, he is adamant the buzz of a six-metre clearance never diminishes.
“I really remember the pleasure I got from that the first time,” he said. “It’s very intense each time because a lot of people have tried it but not many have done it. It’s the ultimate pleasure.”
The only other rush on a par with that for him is racing with his endurance motorbike team. He has competed in the two-wheel version of the Le Mans 24 Hours, although furthering those ambitions are on hold until after next year’s Olympics. Lavillenie said: “The comparison between the two is the moment where you have to take a risk and go for it.
“If you’re too soft on the brakes or the corners, you won’t get faster, so you have to take a chance. It’s the same in the pole vault.”