Phenomenal Renaud: Russian Perspective
Russian pole vault specialists discuss Lavillenie's World Record and its implications.
Saturday, February 15. Russia is glued to TV-sreens following the Winter Olympics, held in Sochi, our best sea resort. However, track and field fans were looking forward to some indoor action. Meets in Birmingham and New York were expected to re-write the season's top lists, at least.
Birmingham didn't disappoint, as Genzebe Dibaba flew around the track on the way to her third Word Record this season. But just minutes later another news completely overshadowed the Ethiopian's impressive feat. Renaud Lavillenie, the one who narrowly missed on becoming the second best vaulter all-time one year ago in Goteborg, and just as narrowly missed on finally winning his first World Championships' gold in Moscow, did something way more impressive.
The Frenchman was on the roll all season. On January 25 he set a National Record of 6.04m in Rouen, less than a week later he added four centimeters to that mark (6.08m) in Bydgoszcz, and finally became the second best pole vaulter behind the one and only Sergey Bubka. On February 15 in Donetsk, at a pole vault competition, organized by Bubka, he became the best. He wasn't getting to Bubka's record (6.15m) by increments, he just set that bar at 6.16m and cleared in from the first try.
This impressive feat didn't leave the Russian track and field community indifferent. "To be honest, before the indoor season started, I didn't expect anything extraordinary from Renaud", says Helsinki 2005 bronze medallist and Torino 2009 European Indoor runner-up Pavel Gerasimov, who is now coaching kids in Moscow. "But when he cleared 5.93m in December from a short run-up, I realized, that he did made substantial progress in training. It that point I was expecting him to jump 6.05-6.10m. But again, after his 6.08m clearance in January, it was obvious, if he is feeling good competing in comfortable conditions, he breaks the record. The wooden runway they have in Donetsk suits him very well", Pavel explained.
But why did he decide to go for 6.21m, five centimeters higher, right away? "I don't know why, but I feel like 6.21m was the exact height that he was able to clear that night. Apparently, Lavillenie felt the same way", smiled Dmitriy Starodubstev, fourth at the London 2012 Olympics and fifth in Beijing 2008. "Plus, if he'd cleared it, it would have "frozen" the World Record for a long time", he added.
So can Lavillenie in fact go higher, and how much higher? "He had a gap in his 6.16m jump, so he can definitely go higher. Breaking outdoor record (6.14m) will be more difficult, but he's proven many times, that he is able to make impossible things happen", Gerasimov admitted. The newly crowned Russian Indoor Champion Ilya Mudrov, who on February 19 improved his indoor personal best by 40 centimeters at once (5.60m), agrees: "He can probably jump 6.20-6.25m or thereabouts, of course, once he's back to full health".
Talking about Lavillenie's secret of success, Mudrov pointed out at Renaud's consistency. "With the amount of meets he takes part in each season, that's just phenomenal! And I think he's proven to everyone that, even if you don't possess outstanding physical features, you can jump over 6m. For me he is definitely an inspiration. I watch his videos and try to copy some technical moments for myself", Ilya confessed. "His strength is his courage, I'd say. On the run-up he determined and fast, that's how he is able to have a high grip, and that's where the high, consistent and impressively beautiful vaults come from", he explained.
Starodubstev credited the Frenchman for his hard work and noted: "I think that he's lucky to have found his ideal event. The one that he possesses all qualities and features to excel in".
Another important question is whether this record has major implications for the men's pole vault development. "I don't think that this record will change the men's pole vault. Renaud is unique. And I wouldn't actually advise to anyone to try and copy Lavillenie's technique. His vault is kind of "out of this world", that's for sure", said Gerasimov.
Starodubtsev was more optimistic: "I think all track and field events need records. All sports need records - to motivate youngsters to take up these sports and work hard. My congratulations to Renaud and I want to wish him the speediest recovery".
Despite the fact, that he injured his foot during that 6.21m attempt, Lavillenie promised to be back by Sopot 2014 and compete on one leg, if needed. And his performance will definitely speak for itself, and answer all these questions better than any expert in the world.