Pole vault world record-holder Renaud Lavillenie has mixed memories of his last visit to the Olympic Stadium in Rome, back in 2013.
It was in the historic venue for the 1960 Olympic Games that he suffered one of his rare losses in recent years, finishing second to the man who would also beat him at the IAAF World Championships in Moscow later that summer, Germany’s Raphael Holzdeppe.
“Every time I compete I like to set goals for that competition but it’s not always about the performance last time or how high I jumped, or the result I had a few years ago; that is not what especially motivates me.
“I am happy to be back in Rome. I am also happy to see Raphael back to form (after jumping 5.80m in Eugene), I am sure we will have a good fight but I want to put what happened two years ago behind me.”
Lavillenie’s French compatriot Thierry Vigneron set two world records at the Golden Gala meeting in 1983 and 1984 but he made it clear that he didn’t believe in omens.
“I’ve seen Thierry’s jumps and this stadium is famous, but I don’t think it’s such a good stadium for Frenchmen,” joked Lavillenie, who was clearly relaxed and enjoying his moment in the spotlight at Wednesday’s press conference.
“After all, when Thierry jumped 5.91m in 1984, just a few minutes later Sergey Bubka jumped 5.94m and took the world record back. But what it does show is that this is a good place to jump high and I heard that there will be perfect conditions tomorrow.”
Lavillenie also had the opportunity to reflect on his win at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Eugene on Saturday, when he cleared an IAAF Diamond League record of 6.05m.
“Usually, I am not starting (my serious competitions of the year) that high so it was completely unexpected, especially with the problems with my shoulder (which he slightly injured a few weeks before). I thought I was going to jump 5.80m, maybe 5.90m but instead I started the season by attempting to beat the world record.
“My goal here in Rome is to jump as high as possible and I would like to break the meeting record (which still stands at 5.94m to Bubka from 1984, when it was a world record). So why not another six-metre jump here?” he responded confidently.
Edwards no idol
The other man of the moment, on current form, is Cuban triple jumper Pedro Pablo Pichardo and there was certainly plenty of Italian interest in the third-best triple jumper in history, as he will spend some of the summer based in Milan.
“This is my first time in Rome at this meeting though. I was told that the run up and board responds well and I'm in good shape, so I hope it will be a good show,” said the 21-year-old 2012 world junior champion.
“In training over the past few days, I’ve been concentrating on improving my technique, physical conditioning, and improving little by little but we never talk specifically about aiming for the world record (of 18.29m), although of course we have talked in general about it.
"Nor is Jonathan Edwards a specific idol of mine although I respect what he has done; instead I look to the other great Cuban jumpers, like Ivan Pedroso, for inspiration.
“Last week jumping 18.08m in Havana wasn’t such a big surprise. I wasn’t expecting to jump over 18 metres so soon after Doha but, then again, I also knew I was in good shape.
“It was little strange though, being the first Cuban over 18 metres, and all the great names of Cuban long and triple jumping were watching me in the stands, people like (1997 world champion) Yoelbi Quesada and (1997 world indoor silver medallist) Aliecer Urrutia.
Fraser-Pryce talks speed
Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce set a world-leading 100m time of 10.81 on Saturday and now the double world champion in the sprints feels she is ready in Rome to get close to her 200m personal best of 22.09, which she set when taking the silver medal at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
“I want to run faster than I did in my last 200m which was 22.37 in Jamaica at the start of last month.
“I definitely believe I am on course to run a personal best, when that comes, I don’t know but I am going to take each race as it comes. (Regarding the 100m) I definitely think it will take faster than 10.70 to win the gold medal at the World Championships in Beijing and I’m definitely working towards that.
Brianna Rollins won the 2013 world 100m hurdles title but since then her thunder has been stolen, to a certain extent, by two compatriots.
Firstly, by Dawn Harper Nelson, who won the 2014 Diamond Race, and in the past few months by Jasmin Stowers, who has sped to a series of super-fast times and in Doha set an IAAF Diamond League record of 12.35.
“I’ve had a good few weeks training so I’m looking forward to racing, I’m very excited," said Rollins. "I raced Jasmin in college. She was going very well in her last year (2014) in the NCAAs, I just assumed that she would come through in a few years and run some pretty good times, I couldn’t predict how quickly she was going to progress but I knew that she’d be a good athlete.”
Phil Minshull for the IAAF