Renaud Lavillenie set to shine at European Athletics Indoor Championships
French pole vault star Renaud Lavillenie owns a world record that long seemed impossible to reach, but he will be hungry for more as the European Athletics Indoor Championships start in Prague on Thursday.
Prague: French pole vault star Renaud Lavillenie owns a world record that long seemed impossible to reach, but he will be hungry for more as the European Athletics Indoor Championships start in Prague on Thursday.
The 28-year-old won three consecutive European indoor titles from 2009-2013, then went on to vault 6.16 metres a year ago to break Ukrainian Sergey Bubka`s world record dating from 1993.
Having cleared a world-leading 6.02 metres so far this year, Lavillenie has unveiled ambitious plans for Prague, saying he would have a go at his record in the Czech capital`s O2 Arena.
"I feel good. I am still in good shape and I am ready for my major goal for the season," he said after a meeting in Malmo, Sweden last week where he managed a modest 5.92 metres by his standards.
The reigning Olympic champion will notably take on Poland`s Piotr Lisek with a season best of 5.90, and his own brother Valentin, five years his junior, who has cleared 5.80 metres this season.
Germany`s Bjoern Otto and Malte Mohr, the silver and bronze medalists from Euro 2013 in Gothenburg, have both been ruled out with injuries.
Also defending gold from Gothenburg, Spanish high jumper Ruth Beitia will face Russian duo Mariya Kuchina and Svetlana Shkolina as well as Poland`s Kamila Licwinko who leads this year`s rankings with a leap of 2.02 metres.
Britain`s Jennifer Meadows will take on defending champion Nataliya Lupu from Ukraine in what should be a thrilling women`s 800m.
The Czech Republic`s Pavel Maslak, who clocked a world-leading 45.27sec in the 400m last month, will seek to please the home crowd after winning in Gothenburg and at the 2014 world indoor championships in Sopot, Poland.
Eelco Sintnicolaas of the Netherlands and France`s Antoinette Nana Djimou will defend titles from Gothenburg in heptathlon and pentathlon, respectively.
Another top star, Germany`s David Storl, the outdoor world champion from 2011 and 2013, is the odds-on favourite in men`s shot put.
Major absentees include French sprinters Christophe Lemaitre and Gothenburg champion Jimmy Vicaut, and their British rival Dwain Chambers.
The controversial 36-year-old misses Prague after the British federation picked Richard Kilty, Sean Safo-Antwi and Chijindu Ujah for the 60m race.
Britain`s Olympic long jump champion Greg Rutherford has pulled out of the indoors on short notice, preferring to focus on the outdoor season peaking at the world championships in Beijing in August.
His withdrawal has made things easier for world-leading Frenchman Kafetien Gomis, who will seek to improve his season best of 8.18m.
The men`s high jump should fall to Ukraine`s Andrii Protsenko as out-of-form Russian rival Ivan Ukhov, who cleared 2.42m in Prague last year to equal the European record, will not be present.