Lavillenie soars in warning to Olympic contenders
Renaud Lavillenie fired out a broadside at Olympic pole vault contenders by defending his European title in Helsinki, Finland, on Sunday with a soaring best of 5.97 metres, a height that cemented his world No 1 ranking.
Lavillenie entered the competition at 5.60m - with seven of the 12-strong field already out, needing two efforts to pass that before opting out until 5.77m, which he sailed over.
The Frenchman vaulted 5.82 at the third time of asking in a duel of gamemanship with German rival Bjorn Otto, who passed at 5.87, which Lavillenie cleared in his first effort.
Both vaulters were then successful at 5.92m, Lavillenie upping the ante when he sailed over a world lead of 5.97m in brilliant sunshine and still conditions at the Olympic Stadium. Otto passed but failed his three efforts at 6.02m, as did Lavillenie.
"It's one of the best competitions of my career," said Lavillenie. "It's been the hardest! I was expecting a battle and I knew that I'd be up against it with the Germans."
The Clermont native added that sceptics who doubted his entry into the European champs so close before the Olympics had been answered.
"There cannot be a better preparation for the Games than a competition like that," he said.
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There was no gold-medal showing for Lavillenie's teammate Christophe Lemaitre, the winner of the 100m here and seen as one of the biggest hopes in disrupting the US and Jamaican dominance in sprinting come the London Olympics.
Lemaitre ran the bend as the second leg but could only watch on as the Dutch quartet of Brian Mariano, Churandy Martina, Giovanni Codrington and Patrick van Luijk won the men's 4x100m relay in a new national record of 38.34sec.
Germany took silver (38.44) and France bronze (38.46).
Russian Sergey Shubenkov also impressed in winning the 110m hurdles in 13.16sec, with France's Garfield Darien taking silver (13.20) and Poland's Artur Noga bronze (13.27).
Earlier on the fifth and final day of competition, Portugal's Dulce Felix won the women's 10 000m in 31:44.75 ahead of Briton Jo Pavey (31:49.03), with Ukrainian Olha Skrypak taking bronze (31:51.32).
Turkey, fresh from winning three golds on Saturday, could hail another middle-distance podium topper in Asli Cakir-Alptekin, who won the women's 1500m in 4:05.31 ahead of compatriot Gamze Bulut (4:06.04), Ukraine's Anna Mishchenko taking bronze (4:07.74).
Norwegian Henrik Ingebrigtsen, 21, was the unlikely victor in the men's 1500m race in a slow 3:46.20, beating home France's Florian Carvalho and Spaniard David Bustos in a sprint.
The German women's quartet won the 4x100m title in 42.51sec, but the men's 4x400m relay was won by Belgium after Kevin Borlee produced a finely-timed burst of speed down the final home stretch.
Ukraine won the women's 4x400, taking their overall medal haul to 17, more than any other nation.
German Sebastian Bayer also left it late in the long jump, going out to 8.34m with his sixth and final effort to snatch victory from Spaniard Luis Felipe Meliz (8.21) and Swede Michel Torneus (8.17).
Elsewhere in the field, Poland's Anita Wlodarczyk threw a best of 74.29m to claim gold from Slovakian Martina Hrasnova (73.34), Russian Anna Bulgakova (71.47) completing the podium.