Pole vault star Renaud Lavillenie said he would only show up if he was ready to compete and the world record-holder from France kept his word at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Eugene on Saturday (30).
The 2014 World Athlete of the Year had questions surrounding his health after he showed up to the Prefontaine Classic press conference on Friday with a wrap on his right shoulder – the result of an injury he suffered while competing in a relay at a club meeting in France.
But the shoulder problem didn’t seem to bother him in the pole vault competition at Hayward Field where he set an outdoor personal best and an IAAF Diamond League record of 6.05m.
It moved him to equal second on the outdoor world all-time list and was a personal best for Lavillenie when exposed to the elements. “It’s just the beginning of the season I have a lot of work to do,” said Lavillenie.
As has happened sometimes in the past, the early heights proved challenging for him and he needed a third attempt to get over 5.70m. From there, he required two tries at 5.86m before making first-time clearances at 5.96m and 6.05m.
He then took three unsuccessful attempts at 6.16m, hoping to match his indoor best and his world record.
Last year, he admits he took it slightly easy after he set the world record, combined with the fact that he injured himself indoors and didn’t have good weather throughout the summer.
This season, he thinks it is just a question of when he brings the outdoor mark into alignment with his world record, set indoors.
“This summer could be a very good test, a very interesting season,” said Lavillenie.
Saturday was also Lavillenie’s first competition this summer with a full run-up. He vaulted at the Drake Relays last month, but only used a 16-step approach as opposed to his normal 20 steps.
USA’s Sam Kendricks finished second, vaulting 5.80m, and Germany’s world champion Raphael Holzdeppe placed third at the same height.
For Holzdeppe, who surprisingly beat Lavillenie to the world title in Moscow, it was his best height in almost two years after struggling with injuries since the start of 2014.
Dibaba solo run wows crowd
Alhough the conditions and pacing didn’t make a world record likely in the women’s 5000m, Ethiopia’s Genzebe Dibaba made a valiant effort at her older sister Tirunesh’s seven-year-old mark of 14:11.15.
Dibaba backed up her stellar indoor season with a time of 14:19.76, her fastest time outdoors. It moved her up to fourth on the all-time world list outdoors, although only the fourth-fastest Ethiopian.
Prior to the race, Dibaba said she was aiming for a personal best even though the afternoon start meant the possibility of warm temperatures and a windy back straight.
She initially took her place behind the pacemaker early on and went through the first kilometre in 2:51, but the pacemaker wasn’t able to hold the quick pace for very long and Dibaba was soon tasked with leading the race herself.
She passed 3000m in 8:33, five seconds quicker than Tirunesh managed when she set the world record. As the final laps ticked off, the crowd noise crew as the possibility of a sub-14:20 became possible despite the heat on a warm day in Oregon.
“I’m very happy,” said Dibaba. “But the last K (1000m) was very hard.”
Dibaba’s performance adds to what has been a good early season for the event.
Even after the personal best and the meeting record, Dibaba still sits only in second place on the 2015 world list to Ethiopia’s Almaz Ayana who ran 14:14.32 two weeks ago in Shanghai.
After Saturday’s race, Dibaba said she will be attacking the world record again soon.
Behind Dibaba, Kenya’s Faith Kipyegon finished second in 14:31.95, the fastest 5000m debut in history, and 2011 world champion Vivian Cheruiyot was third in 14:46.69.
Kevin Sully for the IAAF