Renaud Lavillenie broke his left hand for Christmas but came back to win his first global international title in the men’s Pole Vault with a World lead 5.95 metres.
To be strictly accurate, it was 6 December, 2011 when Lavillenie fractured his hand, the unfortunate outcome of a training accident when his pole snapped in three. He was able to train, but could not resume vaulting until 25 January.
Just over three weeks later, the 25-year-old Frenchman cleared his first World lead of the indoor season, a 5.93 in Nevers, France. Three weeks later again, he has his second World lead and, more dear to him no doubt, his first global title.
Lavillenie opened with a miss at 5.60, but he was almost faultless at the higher heights, when it counted most. He got 5.75 at the first attempt, 5.80 at the second, 5.85 the first, 5.90 the second and 5.95 on his first try. Crucially, when he did miss, Lavillenie was still first man to clear the height.
Despite his undoubted talent, Lavillenie has stumbled at the global level so far. He did not get through the qualifying round at the 2008 and 2010 World Indoor championships.
At the Berlin 2009 World Championships he, like everyone else, was beaten by Steve Hooker’s heroic effort off an injured quadriceps muscle, but he lost second, too, to team-mate Romain Mesnil.
If Lavillenie has any doubts about his ability to win the biggest competitions, his win in Istanbul will have gone a long way to assuaging them.
Only at the end of the competition did Lavillenie falter. He had to jump at six metres, because US veteran Brad Walker had passed his final attempt at 5.90 to attempt what might have been a winning height.
Lavillenie missed, but so did Walker, so at least the gold medal was now guaranteed. He then took two tries at Hooker’s Championship record 6.01 from Doha 2010, but was unsuccessful. So he took the gold at 5.95.
Despite Walker being the second-last man to go out of the competition, the silver medal went to another veteran, Bjorn Otto of Germany, who cleared 5.80 and went oh-so-close to 5.90.
Otto, too, started with a miss at his opening height of 5.50, but it came to this, a silver medal. He was clearly disappointed not to go higher than his 5.80, but the consolation is that he has finally added a major world medal to the World Student Games gold medal he won i 2005.
Walker took the bronze with 5.80, having had more misses to that height than Otto.
It is something of a comeback for the US vaulter, who won the outdoor title at Osaka in 2007, failed to qualify for the Olympic final the following year, and has been in injury-induced doldrums since.
Germany’s Malte Mohr needed three attempts to clear his opening height of 5.60, but went on to finish fourth with 5.75. He was close, too, at 5.85, which would have given him the silver medal.
But no-one was taking the gold off Lavillenie this night.
Len Johnson for the IAAF