Several of the world's best elite pole vaulters shared their ideas on how to innovate the sport at an informal forum with IAAF President Sebastian Coe today (24) in Clermont-Ferrand, France.
The gathering took place ahead of tomorrow's All-Star Perche pole vault competition, organised for the third straight year by pole vault world record holder Renaud Lavillenie in his hometown.
The athletes gathered, many making their final competitive appearances prior to the IAAF World Indoor Championships Birmingham 2018 from 1-4 March, were eager to share their insights on how they'd like to see the sport move forward. Especially Lavillenie, who invited the IAAF President specifically so he could take part in the forum.
"It was an honour that the president of the IAAF took time to come and visit me to discover the All Star Perche, especially in a rush period for him only a few days before the world championships," Lavillenie said. "The moments shared with him and other athletes to speak about the future of our sport were great and really interesting."
For his part, Coe was eager to invite feedback and ask questions. “I have a great admiration for what Renaud has achieved here in Clermont Ferrand, a perfect blend of excellence and inspiration," Coe said. "It was equally inspiring to listen to so many of the ideas by our athletes. Some clear actionable advice as we continue to incorporate innovative approaches to the sport."
Reigning and former world champions Sam Kendricks, Shawn Barber and Konstantinos Filippidis, world leader Katie Nageotte and Canadian record holder Alysha Newman were among the athletes who took part.
The topics discussed varied widely, from the structure of the current competition calendar to the IAAF World Rankings which are due to be put in place at the end of this year. In some areas, a clear consensus emerged.
The restructuring of the competition calendar should take the form of a "real league" with the IAAF World Championships staged at the conclusion of the season, they said. Talking specifically of their event, the pole vault, athletes supported the idea of an organised street circuit to follow the stadium season through September and into October.
Thank you @airlavillenie for hosting an awesome event and Seb Coe for chatting with us! Pretty cool having an IAAF president that takes time to sit down with vaulters and ask our opinions about our sport. You’re a class act Lord Coe. #polevault #athletics #trackandfield #nike #iaaf #perche #allstarperche
There was also support voiced for the ideas behind the World Rankings. Athletes stressed the importance of knowing, at the end of each year, who the top athletes were in each event, something that's clear in many other sports. Linking the rankings to entry into the IAAF World Championships was also looked upon favourably.
Athletes also discussed prize money and appearance fees, with several saying they'd prefer the elimination of the latter and an increase in the former.
Tomorrow's elite competition caps the two-day pole vault festival, with more than 4000 spectators expected. Saturday's programme featured more than 200 athletes competing by age group and skill level.
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF