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Resurgent Lavillenie clears 5.92m in Bordeaux

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Renaud Lavillenie officially enters the veteran ranks when he celebrates his 35th birthday in September but the grand old man of the pole vault made a sterling season’s opener at the Star Perche Officiel in Bordeaux on Saturday (16).

On the road to the Torun 2021 European Athletics Indoor Championships, Lavillenie cleared 5.92m on his second attempt to equal his best ever season’s opener. His clearance was also a world lead albeit for only a few hours after 21-year-old KC Lightfoot cleared 5.94m in Lubbock, Texas later in the day.

Vaulting off a 16-step approach, Lavillenie sealed the victory over his younger brother Valentin with a second-time clearance at 5.82m. The manner in which he cleared that height suggested the next height of 5.92m wasn’t an insuperable task and the former world record-holder duly wriggled over the crossbar at the second time of asking.

The Frenchman concluded his competition by taking three unsuccessful attempts at 6.00m, a height Lavillenie hasn’t conquered since the 2016 World Indoor Championships in Portland.

“But that is the objective this season,” said Lavillenie as quoted by L’Equipe. “I cleared 5.80m in training and the objective today was 5.90m. I still have four steps to add and this will give me more speed. The signs are good.”

Lavillenie’s next competitions will be in Karlsruhe, Germany on 29 January and then in Tourcoing two days later on 31 January. 

There were two national indoor records in the women’s competition as training partners Femke Pluim from the Netherlands and Fanny Smets from Belgium both cleared 4.51m to ameliorate their previous records.

Pluim added one centimetre to her five-year-old record while Smets decimated her previous national indoor record of 4.40m. Her clearance at 4.51m also equals her outright Belgian record which she set in 2018. 

Switzerland’s Angelica Moser also cleared 4.51m to finish third on countback.

Elsewhere around Europe...

World and European long jump champion Malaika Mihambo opened her season with a third-place finish in the 60m at the Frankfurt Winter Cup on Saturday (16), clocking 7.49 in a race won by Lisa Mayer in a swift 7.26.

Mihambo competed in the long jump the following day and jumping off an abbreviated approach, the 26-year-old reached out to 6.52m to finish second on countback to Maryse Luzolo.

Fellow long jumper Khaddi Sagnia showed newfound speed on her season's debut in Gothenburg on Sunday (17). Sagnia smashed her lifetime best in the 60m with 7.26 which gives Sagnia the option of contesting the 60m as well as the long jump at the European Athletics Indoor Championships in Torun.

European U23 100m champion Henrik Larsson won the 60m in 6.69 and Carl Bengstrom won the 400m in 47.01.

Fellow European U23 champion Ignacio Fontes clocked 3:40.76 in the 1500m in Antequera on Sunday (17).

Veteran Serbian shot putter Asmir Kolasinac, the 2013 European indoor champion, threw 20.40m in Belgrade on Saturday (16) to defeat Mesud Pezer from Bosnia & Herzegovina with 20.30m. There was also another national record for Darko Pesic from Montenegro who won the 60m hurdles in 7.95. 

European U18 and U20 heptathlon champion Maria Vicente achieved a promising set of results on her season's debut in San Sebastian on Saturday (16). Vicente won the 200m in 23.88 and the long jump with 6.21m.