2011 AREVA Paris: Renaud Lavillenie: the next Superstar? by Larry Eder

Renaud Lavillenie, 2011 European Indoor Champs, photo by PhotoRun.net

Renaud Lavillenie is the 2011 European champion at the pole vault. In Bercy, France, in March 2011, Lavilllenie was supreme in a day most French track fans will never forget: Lavillenie cleared 6.01m for a new French record, won the Euro title as his team mate Teddy Tamgho was putting the finishing touches on winning the triple jump and the French 4 x 400m team won the European title.

Lavillenie is affable, speaks clear English and French, and seems to enjoy himself. In the interviews here, at the AREVA Paris meeting, Renaud was quite comfortable with the press and answered the following questions for me:
Lavillenie & Hooker, 2010: " He is a mystery to me" noted Lavillenie, photo by PhotoRun.net

The pole vault, or perche, in French is a rarefied event calling for great physical strength, core training, gymnastics training and the controlled wildness of a successful longboard surfer. Pole vaulters are the modern painters of track & field. They have an appreciation of their event, but understand that most people would find their event frightening. There is a respect among the top vaulter, and Lavillenie is no exception.

I was able to ask Renaud three questions in English, to which he graciously tolerated my prying. First of all, What did he remember from his 6.01m vault in Bercy, at the European Indoors?

Renaud replied, " My training had been very good. I felt, on the first several steps of the run, that I was going to clear 6.01m. The rest of the jump was excellent. "

When asked if he preferred a great height to a win, there was no hesitation, "A win!" Renaud smiled. Then he noted that as he was leading the Samsung DL in the pole vault, he wanted to win AREVA to keep the streak and his potential win going!

When I asked him, what height he dreamed of in the perfect jump, he laughed and answered it this way. " I dream of 6.03m, perhaps 6.05m or 6.07meters, but most of all, I want to win. "

The  French media were all over Lavillenie about what they saw as the inconsistencies of his jumping, with his 6.01m in March, and his leading the world with jumps outdoors of 5.80m.

Lavillenie_Renaud-Rome11.jpgLavillenie winning in Rome, 2011: Compeed Golden Gala, Roma, photo by PhotoRun.net

Here is what Renaud said to the media crowd: 

"My season has been different than last year. I have been less consistent. But, I am not worried about that, because my preparation has also been different. I jumped in May and June with no specific training. I have not used my strongest pole. But, anyway, I am the only one so far who has cleared 5.80m or higher more than once. I am surprised by that. About Friday night, I guess I could jump 5.90m, because I was close to clearing 5.88m, in Lausanne. It will depend on conditions. Wind is often complicated for us in this stadium. But, more than jumping high, I want to win, as I did in 2009 and 2010. And I want to keep the lead in the Diamond League race."

My take on Lavillenie? He has the strength and style of the great French vaulters, of which, he may be the best. He also speaks English, which gives him much more commercial opportunities.

Lavillenie and Hooker will battle it out in Daegu. Lavillenie has had more luck with his health. And if someone is ever on at this time, Renaud Lavillenie is on. He has confidence in his training, his coaching and his jumping.

And, most of all, he wants to win....

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