Renaud Lavillenie rolled back the years with a vintage display of pole vaulting at his home meeting, the All-Star Perche in Clermont-Ferrand, on Saturday (27) evening.
Now 34, Lavillenie scaled the 6.00m-barrier for the first time in five years at the end of January in Tourcoing but that performance was followed by a run of poor results, including a no-height in Val-de-Reuil and a third-place finish at the French Indoor Championships.
But with Torun 2021 less than a week away, Lavillenie delivered his best performance of the season with a spectacular third-time clearance at 6.06m in front of a sparse audience which included his wife Anais and daughter Iris as well as his long-time coach Philippe d’Encausse.
Not only was it Lavillenie’s best result of the season, it was also his highest vault since his annus mirabilis in 2014 when he dispatched Sergey Bubka’s world record with a 6.16m clearance in Donetsk.
The Frenchman has won four European indoor titles in his esteemed career but he wryly admits he will still be “an outsider” in Torun due to the presence of current world record-holder Armand Duplantis who leads the 2021 world list with 6.10m from Belgrade.
“This is perhaps the first time that I am an outsider at this competition. But the outsider with 6.06m? That is incredible,” said Lavillenie as reported by L’Equipe.
Lavillenie vaulted sparingly - but magnificently - throughout the evening, only taking four vaults prior to the bar being raised to 6.06m. He cleared 5.70m and 5.86m on his first attempts before soaring over 5.96m on his second attempt in a manner which suggested another vault in excess of 6.00m was a likely outcome.
On his third attempt, Lavillenie contorted himself around 6.06m - a height which has only been surpassed by Bubka and Duplantis as well as Lavillenie himself either indoors or outdoors - before three attempts at a world record of 6.20m.
“When I woke up this morning, I was on my feet. I knew deep inside that there was something that could happen. I had a target of 6.06m m or 6.11m depending on the rise in the bar. There is a bit of frustration at 6.20m because I was starting to run out of juice,” he said.
Dutchman Menno Vloon also emerged as a bonafide medal contender for Torun in Clermont-Ferrand. The former decathlete shattered his national record with a first-time clearance at 5.86m before adding another ten centimetres to his mark with a third-time clearance at 5.96m.
Chris Nilsen from the United States was third with 5.86m with Ethan Cormant and Valentin Lavillenie, who both finished ahead of Renaud at the French Indoor Championships last weeked, fourth and fifth on countback at 5.80m.
Holly Bradshaw will head to Torun with a record of three wins from as many competitions this season after the Brit cleared 4.78m to win the women’s competition. The silver medallist from Glasgow 2019 concluded her evening with three attempts at a prospective national record of 4.88m which would have improved her nine-year-old mark by one centimetre.
Iryna Zhuk ameliorated her Belarusian record twice to finish second behind Bradshaw, clearing a national indoor record of 4.68m on her first attempt before scaling an outright national record of 4.73m on her third attempt.
Full results here.