French pole vaulter Renaud Lavillenie at the 2011 World Championships in Daegu (© Getty Images)
Renaud Lavillenie heads to Moscow as one of the biggest gold-medal favourites of any event.
The French pole vaulter has produced the best six marks in the world this season, topped by his recent national outdoor record of 6.02m set in London, his last competition before heading to the World Championships.
He is desperate to win gold too, having triumphed at every other major championship – Olympic Games, World Indoor Championships and European Championships indoors and out. Should he succeed, he will make history for his country; despite France taking six medals in the history of this event at the World Championships, none of them have yet been of a golden hue.
Lavillenie is joined on the team by his younger brother Valentin. Should both make it through qualifying, surprisingly it won’t be the first time that a pair of brothers have competed in the Pole Vault final at the World Championships. Back in 1993 Sergey Bubka was joined in the final by older brother Vasiliy. That proved to be a lucky omen for the legendary Ukrainian as he took gold.
German duo Bjorn Otto and Raphael Holzdeppe are familiar rivals to Lavillenie. The pair took the silver and bronze medals behind Lavillenie at both the Olympic Games and European Championships last year. They have also beaten Lavillenie this summer; Holzdeppe at the Rome Diamond League and Otto at the Drake Relays.
At 35 years of age, should Otto make it on to the podium, he would become the oldest ever Pole Vault medallist in the history of the World Championships. Bubka, who took gold in 1997 at the age of 33, is the oldest Pole Vault medallist to date.
Greek record-holder Konstadinos Filippidis has been in top form this year, producing six of the seven best clearances of his career.
Brad Walker, winner of the World title in 2007, heads to Moscow as the top US entrant. His season’s best of 5.83m puts him at fifth on this year’s world season list. The 32-year-old was winning major medals as recently as last year, taking bronze at the World Indoor Championships.
Following Fabiana Murer’s victory in the women’s event two years ago, her Brazilian male counterparts have been steadily improving. Augusto de Oliveira and Thiago Braz da Silva have both broken the South American record this year. De Oliveira cleared 5.82m in June, only for World junior champion Da Silva to add one centimetre to the mark two weeks later.
Other contenders include Czech record-holder Jan Kudlicka, Germany’s 2010 World indoor silver medallist Malte Mohr and defending silver medallist Lazaro Borges from Cuba.
Poland’s Pawel Wojciechowski, the surprise winner in 2011, will not defend his title due to injury.
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Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF