Renaud Lavillenie of France celebrates winning gold in the Men's Pole Vault Final on Day 14 of the London 2012 Olympic Games (© Getty Images)
Olympic champion Renaud Lavillenie and World champion Fabiana Murer are just two of the top athletes set to compete in the 24th edition of the Pole Vault Stars competition in Donetsk on Saturday (9).
Held in the same city that will later this year stage the IAAF World Youth Championships, Donetsk is no stranger to witnessing record-breaking performances. The legendary Sergey Bubka set three of his World indoor records in the Ukrainian city – including the current World record of 6.15m – while Yelena Isinbayeva broke the women’s World indoor record on six occasions in Donetsk.
While no World record attempts are expected to take place this weekend, the meeting promises to be a competitive one with a strong likelihood that the current world-leading marks of 5.92m and 4.76m will be bettered.
Lavillenie has been in superb form already in 2013, having won all five of his competitions and going to the top of this year’s world lists with his 5.92m clearance in Rouen.
Having won in Donetsk for the past two years, the Frenchman will be out to score a hat trick victory, but he’ll likely be pushed all the way by Kostadinos Filippidis. The 26-year-old has this year produced two of his top three career performances, including an outright Greek record of 5.83m in Linz.
Russia’s Yevgeniy Lukyanenko could be a danger. The 2008 World indoor champion and Beijing Olympic silver medallist is a member of the elite six-metre club, but in his only competition of 2013 so far, he cleared just 5.20m.
Others to look out for are 2010 World indoor silver medallist Malte Mohr of Germany, double Olympic finalist Jan Kudlicka, Russia’s Sergey Kucheryanu and 2010 European silver medallist Maksym Mazuryk of Ukraine, a former winner in Donetsk.
Murer, the 2010 World indoor champion, is looking to get back to the top of the pole-vault world in 2013, following a disappointing campaign last year where she failed to make the final of the London Olympics. The Brazilian has competed twice so far this year, posting solid marks in both competitions – 4.60m to win in Reno and 4.65m for second place in Moscow.
This weekend, however, she will take on her toughest challenge of the indoor season so far. Cuba’s Olympic silver medallist Yarisley Silva cleared a season’s best of 4.71m earlier this week in Pardubice. She finished second in Donetsk last year and will be looking to go one better this time. On that occasion it was Jirina Svobodova (nee Ptacnikova) who won, and the European champion returns to the Ukrainian city keen to defend her title.
Also entered is 2009 World champion Anna Rogowska. The Pole opened her season last month with a 4.63m victory in Dresden and looks to be in solid form ahead of her title-defence at the European Indoor Championships next month.
Other athletes include 2010 European bronze medallist Lisa Ryzih of Germany, Greek record-holder Nikoleta Kiriakopoulou, World junior record-holder Angelica Bengtsson, European indoor bronze medallist Kristina Gadschiew, and Russia’s top vaulter this year, Anastasia Savchenko.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF