Renaud Lavillenie’s winning run of 22 pole vault competitions came to an abrupt and unexpected end at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Stockholm’s 1912 Olympic Stadium as he failed to clear a height on Thursday (21).
Having earned his third European title in Zurich last week, the Frenchman had arrived here with the ambition of going through the season unbeaten, but that ambition fell away as he entered the competition at 5.60m, with three rivals still in the competition, only to fail at all three attempts.
As he lay on the mat after his third and final attempt, he whacked his hand down once in annoyance before rising with resignation to that most unfamiliar of experiences – defeat.
However, within a couple of minutes he had his composure and was diligently handing out pre-signed cards to the eager hands of shrill youngsters gathered by the hoardings beyond the final line.
“I didn’t hurt myself, it was just really hard tonight,” said Lavillenie, whose winning sequence had already far outstripped the record of 14 amassed by the man whose 21-year-old world record he broke with 6.16m in February, Sergey Bubka.
“I was really close to the bar and the pole slipped in my hand so I was scared,” he added.
“This was the most difficult competition of the year for me. It was really hard and I was tired from the European Championships. I tried my best and unfortunately it was not good. Now I will rest and try to return to my best.”
Taking full advantage of this momentous lapse was Konstantinos Filippidis, Greece’s world indoor champion, who won with 5.60m on countback from second-placed Piotr Lisek of Poland and Xue Changrui of China.
Filippidis commented: “It was difficult conditions but I tried to get over them. I’m happy with my efforts. Every day we try our best and Lavillenie tried his best. The conditions were too hard for him.”
Things soon went awry for another 2012 Olympic Games gold medallist, Australia’s recently crowned Commonwealth champion Sally Pearson, as she was disqualified for false-starting in the 100m hurdles.
As the pale Australian, who had looked full of energy as she bounced up and down before going to the blocks, looked mournfully on, Queen Harrison led a US 1-2-3 in 12.66. Nia Ali was second in 12.96 and Pearson’s predecessor as Olympic champion, Dawn Harper Nelson, came home third in 12.99.
France’s European silver medallist Cindy Billaud came to grief at the seventh hurdle and crashed painfully into the eighth barrier before limping ruefully away.
Carter takes his chance
US sprinter Michael Rodgers shared Pearson’s fate in the men’s 100m, where he is Diamond Race leader.
Nesta Carter of Jamaica took advantage to win in a season’s best of 9.96, assisted by a maximum legal wind of 2.0m/s, with Keston Bledman of Trinidad and Tobago second in 10.09 and third place going to Great Britain’s Chijindu Ujah in 10.10.
On a night when European champions found the going tough, Finland’s Antii Ruuskanen bucked the trend as he won the javelin with a second-round effort of 87.24m, deposing first-round leader Thomas Rohler to second place with his 85.12m.
Ruuskanen’s team-mate Tero Pitkamaki, the 2007 world champion who returned to the podium in Zurich last week to take bronze, was third again with 84.73m but Czech Republic’s world champion and European silver medallist Vitezslav Vesely had a night to forget as he finished last with 76.42m.
“I went back to Finland to celebrate my gold medal and I’m happy again today,” said Ruuskanen. “I felt good but I had some problems with my shoulder; that’s why I only took three throws, to play it safe. I have a lot of power now and I will compete next in Zurich. It’s my favourite stadium now after getting the gold medal and my personal best of 88.01m last week.”
Russia’s world indoor champion Mariya Kuchina took the honours in a low-key women’s high jump, winning with 1.94m on countback from Lithuania’s Airine Palsyte, with Ana Simic of Croatia third on 1.90m, one place ahead of Spain’s European champion Ruth Beitia.
Godfrey Khotso Mokoena of South Africa took the men’s long jump with a second-round effort of 8.09m, with Ignisious Gaisah of the Netherlands second on 8.04m and home favourite Michel Torneus third with 8.03m.
Mike Rowbottom for the IAAF