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With cautious optimism, Europe’s jumpers turn attention to the indoor season

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If everything goes to plan, France’s Renaud Lavillenie will make a long overdue return to the rostrum at the Torun 2021 European Athletics Indoor Championships before embarking on the defence of his world indoor title in Nanjing, China at the end of March.

Lavillenie has already won four European indoor titles during his illustrious career but the Frenchman has been much missed from the continental stage since winning in Prague 2015 with a championship record clearance of 6.04m. Injuries have forced Lavillenie to miss the last two editions in Belgrade and Glasgow respectively but Torun 2021 certainly features on the former world record-holder’s itinerary.

As is customary, Lavillenie is planning on another full indoor season in which he is likely to cross paths with some familiar adversaries again. He is planning to begin his season in Bordeaux on 16 January, followed by another domestic event in Nevers the following weekend on 23 January.

His only international competition prior to Torun from 5-7 March looks set to be Karlsruhe, Germany on 29 January before another three competitions in France: Rouen on 6 February, the French Indoor Championships in Miramas on 20-21 February and his home meeting, the All Star Perche in Clermont-Ferrand, on 27 February.

Lavillenie, who is planning on embarking on a two-week warm weather training camp in La Reunion next month alongside his younger brother Valentin, spoke of his motivation to contest both major indoor championships in March. “I prefer to go to both because it’s an important opportunity to test myself against the best in the world ahead of the Olympics,” he told L’Equipe.

Two of Europe’s leading high jumpers have also confirmed their intentions to compete indoors this winter. Ukraine’s Yaroslava Mahuchikh went unbeaten indoors this season and the 19-year-old is looking to begin her first fully fledged season as a senior with a handful of competitive appearances on the boards.

"I will perform in the winter season but so far there are no specifics. All I know is about the plans for the high jump competition in Banska Bystrica in February. As for other tournaments...given the unstable situation in the world with coronavirus, it is too early to talk about invitations,” said Mahuchikh who is planning on travelling to Portugal this month for a stint of warm weather training.

Mahuchikh, who cleared a world indoor U20 record of 2.02m last year, is also the reigning European U18 and U20 champion although she is yet to compete on the senior stage at the European Championships yet.

After a relatively low-key 2020 season, Belarus’ Maksim Nedasekau is looking to use the indoor season as an opportunity to get back into the groove of competition. Nedasekau did clear 2.33m last August although his season ended on an inauspicious note with illness forcing him to withdraw from the Rome Diamond League which attracted the strongest line-up of the outdoor season.

Looking ahead to 2021, Nedasekau said: "Now I'm making serious plans for the indoor season. I think I missed the past winter, but now I plan to take part in all the competitions that will take place. However, it is still difficult to say how I will be able to prepare. I had a rather long break due to illness. I tried to train a little, but I couldn't strain too hard.”

Nedasekau has won European U20 and U23 titles in the high jump as well as silver at the Berlin 2018 European Athletics Championships. But hampered by injury, Nedasekau did not progress through qualifying on his debut at the European Athletics Indoor Championships in Glasgow.