Almost five years had passed since Renaud Lavillenie last scaled the six metre-barrier but the Frenchman delivered a sumptuous display on home soil at the first edition of the Perche En Or in Tourcoing on Sunday (31) evening.
Less than three hours after Armand Duplantis opened his season with a 6.01m clearance in Dusseldorf, Lavillenie catapulted himself over 6.02m in Tourcoing - only his fourth vault of the competition - to regain the world lead and venture into six metre territory for the first time since 2016.
Lavillenie might be approaching his 35th birthday but the home favourite has rekindled some of his very best form on the road to the Torun 2021 European Athletics Indoor Championships where he is targeting his fifth gold medal.
His performance was also a demonstration in economy. He cleared 5.63m, 5.80m, 5.93m and 6.02m all on his first attempts before taking one attempt at a world record of 6.20m, one centimetre higher than the world record of 6.19m that Duplantis attempted earlier in the afternoon.
Lavillenie also preserved his unbeaten start to the season having prevailed earlier in the month in Bordeaux with 5.92m, his joint highest season's opener, and on Friday evening in Karslruhe with 5.95m.
“I jumped two days ago, there was fatigue. We are still in January, we have to take the time, there are still great competitions to come. We are all struggling with the pandemic right now. It's a huge chance to be able to jump as a professional athlete and it is good for everyone's morale,” said Lavillenie as quoted by L’Equipe.
Lavillenie and Duplantis will cross paths for the first time this year on Saturday evening at the Perche Elite Tour in Rouen.
In the women's competition, reigning Olympic and European champion Ekaterini Stefanidi from Greece cleared 4.61m in her first significant competition since the 2019 World Athletics Championships in Doha.
Femke Pluim set the fifth Dutch record of the weekend, improving her national indoor record to 4.52m to finish second.
Tamberi clears a world lead of 2.32m in Ancona
Gianmarco Tamberi also showed glimpses of his very best form on his season’s debut in Ancona on Saturday (30) evening.
The reigning European indoor champion didn’t progress through the heights with quite the same consummate ease as Lavillenie but Tamberi showed his competitive mettle with third-time clearances at 2.22m, 2.28m and 2.32m, a world leading height and his best start to a season in five years.
“Today I jumped for my grandfather who passed away in November, it was the first competition without him and I owed it to him,” Tamberi told FIDAL after the competition.
“I started crying since I heard my grandmother Graziella on the phone at lunchtime, when she reminded me that grandfather Marcello never missed a single jump of mine. And even during a run-up to 2.32m a few tears came out.”
Tamberi will be in action again tomorrow evening at the famous Banska Bystrica high jump meeting in Slovakia.
Elsewhere around Europe…
Reigning European indoor champion Lea Sprunger had a busy start to her season on home soil in Magglingen this weekend.
The 30-year-old, who has already announced that she will be retiring at the end of the season, won the 200m in 23.52 and 400m in 52.31 and also clocked 7.50 in the 60m.
European U20 decathlon champion Simon Ehammer displayed his excellent credentials in individual events once again by winning the 60m hurdles in 7.80m and the long jump with 7.72m.
Silvan Wicki clocked 6.61 in the 60m and Angelica Moser also cleared 4.60m in the pole vault.
Marcin Lewandowski is aiming for a fourth successive European indoor title in Torun next month and the Pole began his season on Saturday in the very city which will be staging the biennial continental event next month.
The multiple global and European 800m and 1500m medallist stepped up in distance to win the 3000m in Torun in 7:51.69, the second fastest time in history indoors by a Pole.
Anna Kielbasinska, who was part of Poland’s gold medal-winning team in the 4x400m at the 2019 European Indoor Championships, dropped down in distance to win the 60m in a lifetime best of 7.21.
By contrast, former world U20 800m bronze medallist Andreas Almgren stepped up in distance to break his Swedish indoor 3000m record with 7:41.6 in Sollentuna on Saturday.
“It feels very good, I knew I was in very good shape but not that I would run this fast. All the workouts I have done this winter have been better than the last indoor season when I ran the record,” he said.
At the Ukrainian Indoor Team Championships in Sumy, Iryna Herashchenko cleared 1.92m in the high jump and European 400m hurdles silver medallist Hanna Ryzhykova won the 400m flat in 52.97.
Jessica-Bianca Wessolly set a European-leading 200m of 23.07 in Mannheim on Saturday and also won the 60m in 7.41.
Multiple Slovenian champion Maja Mihalinec also opened her season with a fast 7.23 on home soil in Novo Mesto on Sunday, missing her lifetime best by just 0.02.