French pole vaulter Renaud Lavillenie goes into his sixth outdoor competition of the season at Wednesday’s Diamond League meet unbeaten but wary that his rivals might finally start to pressurise him.
The Olympic champion and recently-crowned world record holder, his 6.16m busting Sergey Bubka’s long-standing record, said his goal was to stay focused ahead of this summer’s European Championships in Zurich.
“Of course, it’s a good start to the season because I’ve finished first in each of my five competitions,” Lavillenie said.
“I want to stay focused now for Zurich,” said the two-time winner in Oslo (2010 and 2012), adding that German Tim Lobinger’s Bislett meet record of 6.00m could be under threat.
“If there’s a good wind, there’s maybe a chance, we’ll see how it will be. 5.90 or 6.00m would be a good performance.”
His dominance on the global circuit and lack of real competition, he argued, had not yet hindered him when it came to knuckling down to performing.
“It’s not so difficult,” he said. “I’m sure a lot of other vaulters will be getting close to 5.80m very soon.
“In any case, I’m focused on myself, doing good performances and making good marks.”
Lavillenie again defended his decision to go straight for Bubka’s world record, rather than edging up centimetre by centimetre.
“Everything was good vaulting at 6.00m. Making the jump from 6 to 6.15m, everything good changed to everything kind of perfect,” he smiled.
“It was just a question of me handling a bigger pole. I was more efficient and was not losing energy as I was before.”
The Clermont native added: “You cannot compare what I do and Sergey did 20 years ago. He did 1cm (by 1cm to improve the world record) to get some money. For me it was different, it was just for the world record.
“It’s not easy to find good conditions to vault high. I had my best opportunity to jump high at Donetsk. That was a good day for that.”
Lavillenie’s closest rival in Oslo will likely be Germany’s Raphael Holzdeppe, who snatched world gold from the Frenchman last year in Moscow, winning on countback with a best of 5.89m after Lavillenie dramatically failed three times at 5.96.
But the German is facing his own fight just to make the German team after missing the indoor season and seeing two teammates already lay down the 5.70m qualifying standard for inclusion at the European Championships.
“My goal is 5.75m or higher,” he said, with a record of only seven wins in 34 contests with Lavillenie. “I think that’s reasonable.
“It’s been difficult for me because I missed the indoor season. I thought I’d just go back out there, but I couldn’t find my rhythm.
“But I’m feeling really confident now.”