28 JUL 2012 Preview

Men's Pole Vault - PREVIEW

Renaud Lavillenie after his 5.97m world lead in Helsinki (Getty Images)Renaud Lavillenie after his 5.97m world lead in Helsinki (Getty Images) © Copyright
Renaud Lavillenie has medals from the indoor and outdoor editions of the World Championships and European Championships, but the one medal missing from his collection is an Olympic one.

The Frenchman made his breakthrough the year after the Beijing Games, winning the 2009 European Indoor title and taking bronze at the World Championships in Berlin that year. He followed it with European gold in 2010, successfully defended his European Indoor title in 2011 and scooped another World Championships bronze last year in Daegu.

This year he is undefeated in major championships, winning World Indoor gold in Istanbul and winning a second European gold in Helsinki. Lavillenie often produces his best at the big events too – he set a national record of 6.03m at last year's European Indoor Championships and his best mark of this season came when winning in Helsinki.

But could defending champion Steve Hooker spring a surprise? The Australian's gold in Beijing was followed by World Championship gold in 2009 and the World Indoor title in 2010. But over the past 12 months he has suffered a case of 'the yips', losing his confidence in vaulting.

In his last competition before the Games, however, Hooker enjoyed a confidence-boosting 5.72m clearance in Szczecin – his best outdoor mark of the summer. Hooker has previously pulled off a surprise victory off the back of less-than-ideal preparation. When he won the World title in Berlin, he was carrying a serious injury but made it through to the final where he entered the competition in the closing stages and took just two jumps to land the gold.

At 34 years old, Björn Otto has this year found the form of his life. The German has been a journeyman of the Pole Vault over the past 15 years, but during that time has never made an Olympic team. At this year's Games, however, he is one of the medal favourites.

He has cleared 5.92m three times in 2012 – twice indoors, once outdoors – and has taken silver medals at the two major championships this year, the World Indoors and the European Championships. So will it be third time lucky for Otto in London?

His team-mate Malte Mohr is also a solid bet for a medal. The World Indoor silver medallist has set PBs indoors (5.87m) and outdoors (5.91m) this year and beat Otto at the German Championships.

USA's Brad Walker went to the Beijing Olympics as one of the favourites, but went out in qualifying after failing to clear a height. He is still a threat though, and five years after winning the World Championships in Osaka, Walker was on the podium again at this year's World Indoors. He boasts a season's best of 5.90m, which is the kind of height with which medals will be won.

Britain's Steve Lewis could be coming into form at just the right time. He beat a high-quality field at the Kusocinski Memorial, his last competition before the Games, to set a national record of 5.82m. Like Walker, Lewis also no-heighted in qualifying at the last Olympics, so will be keen to make amends.

Last year's surprise World Champion Pawel Wojciechowski has been struggling for form this year. Cuba's Lázaro Borges added 15 centimetres to his PB to take an unexpected silver medal in Daegu last year, but he hasn't been in the same kind of form this season and would do well to make the final.

Other contenders include defending Olympic silver medallist Yevgeniy Lukyanenko, European bronze medallist Raphael Holzdeppe and French veteran Romain Mesnil.

Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF