Renaud Lavillenie returns to action in Donetsk with a victory at 5.82m (Donetsk Organisers) © Copyright
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Lavillenie tops world-leading 5.93m in Nevers

Renaud Lavillenie became the 2012 world leader in the Pole Vault with a 5.93m clearance in Nevers, France, on Saturday (18) evening, while the same day in Val-de-Reuil, Christophe Lemaitre won the 60m in 6.59 to highlight a weekend streak of French meetings. On Thursday (16), Jamaican Patricia Hall ran 22.88 at 200m in Eaubonne, another world-leading mark.

Lavillenie bounces back from sub-par outing in Liévin

Lavillenie left Liévin earlier in the week with a fifth place finish with 5.52m, a sub-par performance he explained by the tiring travel to Donetsk, Ukraine, last weekend where he opened his season in a fine manner with 5.82m. Fully recovered and back in shape, the European Champion entered the Pole Vault meeting organised in Nevers with high ambitions. As an indication, he used poles bigger than he ever tried, and this paid off has he cleared 5.82m, and 5.93m at his first attempt with a considerable margin over the bar. Lavillenie then asked for 6.05m, two centimetres over his national record. He missed three times, but was plainly satisfied.

“I noticed from the beginning of the competition that I was able to jump 5.80m or more, and my first jumps were very easy.” The track runway limited his number of strides from 20 to 18 during the run-up.

“I didn’t know how I would adapt to it, but the result was obviously very good.”

200m world leader for Hall in Eaubonne

Eaubonne's meeting on Thursday, the “Meeting Femina Val d’Oise”, was a women's-only competition. Two days after an impressive 300m in Liévin (35.69), Patricia Hall confirmed her great shape in beating Sanya Richards’s world-leading 200m mark (23.18) with 22.88.

“It didn’t felt like a 22.88,” said the Jamaican. “I don’t mean it was an easy race but I managed to run fast and relaxed, I guess my hard work has finally paid off.”

Indeed, this is even faster that her outdoor personal best of 23.07 (she also ran 22.84 wind-assisted). There’s little doubt about her capacity to break her indoor (51.92) or even outdoor (51.40) references at 400m, a distance she'll take on in her next outing in Stockholm.

“I have not set time in mind, as every time I think about a time, I mess up my race. One has to only think about execution,” she explained. “Looking at the results so far, I’m sure my coach Eric Francis is proud of me and I want to thank him for everything.”

At the same meeting, LaVerne Jones-Ferrette set an impressive 7.06, later corrected to 7.05, the second fastest time in the world this year. Off with a great reaction to the gun, the acceleration of the Virgin Island’s native left Ukrainians Olesya Povh and Mariya Ryemyen well behind (7.16 and 7.21, respectively). Twelve months after the birth of her daughter Asana, the 1.73m and 68kg sprinter gave some details about her life as a female athlete at the occasion of the Meeting Femina.

“My daughter is at home as she is too small to travel, so she stays with my husband who helps me very hard, we share our time around her. He is my mentor and my mental coach. A good organisation is necessary because I train five to six times a week.” Jones-Ferrette is coached by personal trainer Allen Powell in Houston, in a group which includes male and female sprinters like Trinidadian Aaron Armstrong and Murielle Ahouré of Ivory Coast. “That’s a good things as men can push you at training. I don’t set an age limit to myself, I would like to continue as long as I can, maybe even after 2016 Olympics!” Jones-Ferrette continued her successful French campaign two days later with a 7.18 in Val-de-Reuil.

Also 12 months after daughter Saartje was born, Tia Hellebaut, a mother of two, won the high jump with 1.93m. The Belgian, 34, currently weakened by a cold, indicated that she will participate in the World Indoor Championships in Istanbul (9-11 March) on her way to try to defend her Olympic Title in London.

'Unsatisfied' in Val de Reuil Lemaitre to skip Istanbul

Second behind Lerone Clarke in Liévin with 6.57, Christophe Lemaitre came to Val de Reuil to improve his time, and maybe his personal best of 6.55, or even beat the national’s season best of 6.53 set by Jimmy Vicaut, who is unfortunately side-lined for the rest of the indoor season after he pulled a hamstring at training. In the final, Nigerian Peter Emelieze was as usual the fastest out of the blocks and remained first until Lemaitre, thanks to a late surge, leaned on the tape. The Frenchman won in 6.59, 0.01 from his rival who equalled his personal best.

“I’m not satisfied,” the winner mourned. “I was expecting better, that means that I’m not ready yet. I gave my all in the last metres, but I need to improve the first three metres of the race”, analysed the 2010 triple European champion, who will end his season after the National Championships next weekend, passing on the World Indoor Championships in order to prepare for the outdoor season.

Val-de-Reuil set up the rarely-run 400m hHurdles, in which Dominican Felix Sanchez set a World Best with 48.78, smashing his pervious mark of 49.25.

“I think it’s a very exciting race for the public and also for the runners,” explained the 2004 Olympic champion. “We 400m hurdlers need indoor competitions too! It’s different than the outdoor race where the last hurdle is placed 40 metres away from the finish line, while indoors, there are two hurdles in the last 45 metres. That’s why it is lots more difficult as you get tired so you have to be a very good technician and have a lot of strength. You can’t have a set number of strides in the interval as it depends on the design of the track, your lane and the tactics, so it forces you to react to the hurdle.”

Sanchez will now prepare for the outdoor season, starting in May with the assurance to be already in great shape. “I estimate that one can run one second faster outdoors than indoors at 400m hurdles.” The Dominican already feels very fast and has high goals for 2012. “I’m healthy again and can focus on my fourth and last Olympics Games. Dai Greene (reigning World Champion) is the favourite running at home in London, but I’m training to win, like everyone.”

Pierre-Jean Vazel for the IAAF

Links for full results:

- Eaubonne

- Val de Reuil

- Nevers