17 MAY 2014 General News Shanghai, China

Press conference highlights in Shanghai – IAAF Diamond League

Renaud Lavillenie in Shanghai ahead of the 2014 IAAF Diamond League meeting (Errol Anderson)Renaud Lavillenie in Shanghai ahead of the 2014 IAAF Diamond League meeting (Errol Anderson) © Copyright

Having soared magnificently over a bar set at 6.16m in Donetsk three months ago, supplanting Sergey Bubka as world record-holder, France’s Olympic champion Renaud Lavillenie said in Shanghai on Saturday (17) that he is ready to go higher.

But maybe not yet.

Lavillenie is of the mind that records always are broken so asked at the IAAF Diamond League press conference whether he saw any limit to how high vaulters could go, Lavillenie replied that he saw none.

“I have no idea. No one was thinking the world record could be beaten in 2014. Some scientists think that 6.19m is a limit, but we saw video of Bubka in which he was 20-25 centimetres clear of the bar on a six-metre jump.”

Bubka cleared 6.15m indoors in 1993 and 6.14m outdoors the following year, so it has taken 21 years for anyone to exceed his records.

“Everybody wants to go higher,” explained Lavillenie. “Sometimes it takes a long time, but someone is always going to jump higher.”

Somewhat cruelly, the desire to go higher laid Lavillenie low just a minute or two after he had supplanted Bubka in the record books.

Attempting 6.21m, he fell off the bags on to the runway, gashing his ankle on the raised surface.

The wound took time to heal and Lavillenie is only now getting back to full strength and training. He told yesterday’s press conference he would be jumping off a shortened run-up in Shanghai.

“I will be on 16 (steps),” he said. “Usually, it’s 20.”

Lavillenie said the shorter approach was as much related to ensuring he lasted out the season as to his foot injury.

“It is early in the year and (16 steps) is better for me. It will ensure that I am not tired as I go through the season.”

He plans to be back on his full approach for his next IAAF Diamond League outing, in the US city of Eugene on 31 May.

“My main goal in Shanghai is to win,” Lavillenie said. “If it takes 5.80m to do that, I will be happy.

“My goal is to do what I can. I jumped 5.95m or better (with an outdoor best of 6.02m among them) seven times last year. My goal this year is to jump six metres as often as possible.”

Diamond League love

Lavillenie said he “loved the concept” of the IAAF Diamond League. He has won the Diamond Race in the pole vault the past four years.

“You have to be very consistent, not just hit your peak one time. Every competition will be with the best guys. It’s important to me, I love to win it each year.”

This year’s Shanghai meeting is the 10th annual major international athletics meeting in the city, the past five as part of the IAAF Diamond League and the first five as part of earlier competition structures.

Speaking at the press conference, IAAF senior vice president Sebastian Coe congratulated organisers of the meeting.

“Partners make a great event,” said Coe. “And athletes bring the crowd.”

Coe thanked the local government and municipal partners and the Chinese Athletics Association: “For its ongoing commitment to the globalisation of our sport.

“I look forward to being in the crowd tomorrow night alongside so many people who are passionate about the sport of track and field.”

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce is one athlete giving fans plenty to cheer about, dominating the women’s 100m and now placing increased emphasis on the 200m, the event she will contest here.

“I’m feeling OK,” commented Fraser-Pryce modestly. She has already won the 100m at the opening IAAF Diamond League meeting in Doha last week.

“I’ve had some hiccups. Sometimes you get a few cramps and pains. Nothing serious.

“I’m looking to improve in this race. I want to try to break 22 seconds, that’s one goal. Every race I run I try to create the best race possible.”

Fraser-Pryce, too, is a fan of the Diamond League. “When you line up, the best of the best are there,” she said.

Unlike Lavillenie, she is not thinking about winning the Diamond Race just yet despite taking double honours in the 100m and 200m in 2013. “I just think about one race at a time.”

Against the clock

Shanghai will be Fraser-Pryce’s second 200m of the year and she wants to make it faster than the 22.53 she ran on home turf in the Kingston IAAF World Challenge meeting at the beginning of the month.

“Tomorrow I want to put it together and run faster than in Jamaica. There’s not a huge gap in times,” she added, reflecting on the competition in the 200m. “So the win often goes to the person who stays level-headed and composed.”

Allyson Felix is running her first race since the IAAF World Championships in Moscow last summer. The much-medalled US speedster collapsed to the track in the final of the 200m in Moscow with a torn hamstring, an injury she now describes as “just one of those things".

“It took some time to work out why it happened, and then to strengthen and rehabilitate the muscle,” said Felix.

“You just have to deal with it, though it was worse for me because I’ve never had an injury like that before.”

Felix’s goals for 2014 are “a successful season I can build on.”

She will run the 400m in Shanghai and professed to being, “a little nervous,” not just because of the injury, “but because I always am.”

Felix said she will concentrate on running over one lap a little more this year.

“I’ve been running a long time now and there’s a little bit of wear and tear. (Running the 400m) is helpful to re-energise myself for the years when it is going to be more demanding.”

A few years older than Felix at 32, 110m hurdler David Oliver is a regular visitor to Shanghai, and a regular racer against local hero and 2004 Olympic champion Liu Xiang, who hopes to recover from injury and return to the fray in 2015.

Oliver said he loved coming back to the Chinese city. “I’ve been here six or seven times and I’m looking forward to competing again and putting on a great show,” said the Moscow 2013 champion

Told that Chinese hurdler Xie Wenjun had said his goal was to beat him, Oliver responded sportingly: “That’s a great aspiration to have. You should always be aiming for the win every time you put your foot on the block.”

Len Johnson for the IAAF