It has been almost two-and-a-half years since Pawel Wojciechowski won a surprise pole vault gold medal at the 2011 World Championships in Daegu. For the then 22-year-old, it looked to be the start of a fantastic career.
But the past two years have been a struggle for the Polish record-holder. Three months after winning the world title, he injured his zygomatic bone in a freak training accident. Although he made it to the 2012 Olympics, he failed to register a height in qualifying.
Further injury problems kept him out of action for the whole 2013 season and he was unable to defend his world title in Moscow.
He opened his 2014 campaign earlier this month with a 5.45m clearance in Leverkusen, competing off a short approach. But at the Perche Elite Tour meeting on Saturday (18) in the French city of Orleans he went much higher.
Wojciechowski overcame a minor scare at his opening height of 5.45m, but after clearing it on his third attempt he then sailed over 5.64m at the first time of asking. Confidence regained, he then scaled 5.76m on his second try.
It was his best performance since his World Championships victory back in 2011.
With the competition won, he skipped past 5.82m, had two attempts at 5.87m and then one further failure at 6.00m.
He defeated a quality field comprising three other men who cleared 5.70m. World finalist Xue Changrui of China finished second with 5.70m, his second-best ever performance. Portugal’s Edi Maia also cleared the same mark in third to improve his own national indoor record by six centimetres. Greek record-holder Kostas Filippidis also cleared 5.70m in fourth.
“I feel great, but the fact that I finished the contest with an unsuccessful jump somewhat spoiled my mood,” said Wojciechowski. “I knew I was in good shape, but it was my first competition this year with a full run-up and I was a little apprehensive if I could combine all the technical elements.
“Both attempts at 5.87m were quite promising,” added Wojciechowski, who will now be among the medal favourites when he competes at the IAAF World Indoor Championships in front of a home crowd in Sopot in March. “I still have to analyse these jumps, but now I know that there are some technical elements to improve.”
In the women’s contest, Marion Fiack added 10 centimetres to the French indoor under-23 best with her first-time clearance at 4.61m.
Two-time world junior champion Angelica Bengtsson was second with 4.45m and Greek record-holder Nikoleta Kiriakopoulou was third with 4.35m.
Ahoure, Brown and Morris sprint to top of world lists
Over in the USA, double world silver medallist Murielle Ahoure got her season off to a flying start with a world-leading 7.05 clocking over 60m in Houston on Friday (17).
One day later at the Texas A&M 10-Team Invitational, Kamaria Brown ran a world-leading 22.96 in the 200m while 2009 world youth 100m champion Prezel Hardy impressed in the men’s sprints with a winning double of 6.56 in the 60m and 20.70 in the 200m, both lifetime bests.
At the same meeting, Kenya's Carvin Nkanata won the 400m in 46.36, tying the world-leading mark that had been set one day prior by Neil Braddy in Fayetteville.
At the Auburn Indoor Invitational in Alabama, Warren Fraser smashed the Bahamian 60m record twice; first with 6.61 in the heats and then with 6.54 in the final.
But it didn't last as a world-leading mark for long as Joe Morries improved his PB to 6.53, aided by Albuquerque's altitude at the Lobo Collegiate Open.
At the Pole Vault Summit meeting in Reno, Olympic champion Renaud Lavillenie continued his winning streak by taking victory with 5.75m, while Mary Saxer won the women’s event with 4.61m.
Storl breaks 21 metres in Sassnitz, Hinriksdottir sets European junior best
Two-time world champion David Storl became the first athlete in 2014 to break 21 metres in the shot put. The 23-year-old won in Sassnitz with a mark of 21.04m, while world silver medallist Christina Schwanitz improved her own world-leading mark by more than half a metre, winning the women’s shot put with 19.79m.
One day later in Leverkusen, Silke Spiegelburg added 10 centimetres to the world-leading pole vault mark as she won with 4.71m, just six centimetres shy of the national indoor record she set in the same arena two years ago.
World youth champion Anita Hinriksdottir impressed on home soil in Reykjavik, breaking the European junior indoor 800m best with a world-leading time of 2:01.81. The previous European junior mark of 2:01.85 was set by Gabriela Sedlakova in 1987, nine years before Hinriksdottir was born.
In Nantes, world finalist Cindy Billaud broke the eight-second barrier for the first time in her career to win the 60m hurdles with a world-leading 7.96.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF