Christophe Lemaitre in action in the heats of the 200m (Getty Images) © Copyright
Preview Liévin, France

The focus on Lavillenie and Lemaitre in Liévin - PREVIEW

Renaud Lavillenie and Christophe Lemaitre will meet the world’s best at the 23rd edition of the “Meeting Pas de Calais Trophée Caisse d’Epargne” in Liévin on Tuesday (14), the fourth of this season’s six IAAF Indoor Permit Meetings.

The European Pole Vault champion (indoor in 2011, outdoor in 2010) Renaud Lavillenie will arrive in Liévin full of confidence after his win (5.82m) in Donetsk on Saturday evening. That’s exactly what he needed to overcome the doubts raised since an accident on 6 December during a training session. During an attempt to clear 5.70 from a 14 stride run-up - which is pretty usual for Lavillenie - the pole broke in three pieces, and the upper piece hit his hand.  An MRI revealed that he broke his third metacarpus. He was fortunate to not severely injure his back as he fell down on his back next to the mat. In spite of a long forced rest and progressive training rehabilitation, Lavillenie kept his plan to open his 2012 indoor campaign in Donetsk, and now he is back to full shape for Liévin. In the absence of world Leader (5.90m) Dmitry Starodubtsev (RUS), the opposition will come from Björn Otto (GER), 2nd in Donetsk with 5.82m and World silver medallist Lazaro Borges of Cuba.

The women’s event will highlight World record holder Yelena Isinbayeva (5.00m) in the absence of another Russian Svetlana Feofanova who was injured in Donetsk. Her target will be the world leading mark of 4.88m held by American Jenn Suhr, while French record holder (4.70m) Vanessa Boslak is back this winter with 4.52m, after two years out because of knee injuries.

Double duty for Lemaitre in season debut

Just back from a training camp in Portugal, Christophe Lemaitre, the 200m bronze medallist and fourth place finisher in the 100m at last year’s World Championships will open his season at 60m and 200m. At the shortest distance, a dual has been built in the last minute with Jimmy Vicaut. The other French 100m world finalist, only 19, didn’t intend to run indoors, but opted for a test in Dusseldorf on Friday, which resulted in a surprising 6.53, beating by 0.02 the previous U23 national record held by Lemaitre. In the process, the 1.84 tall/84kg sprinter set a short-lived world-leading mark. Indeed, since Saturday it’s in the possession of Jamaican Lerone Clarke (6.52 in Fayetteville), who will be keen to take a second win in a row in Liévin. Another Jamaican, Michael Frater, will attract attention in his first indoor appearance since his 6.64 in 2003! He was a 10.21 performer at 100m back then, but one can expect a much better time at 60m as he has lowered his personal best to 9.88 last summer. Like Lemaitre, Turk Ramil Gulyev will double at 60m and 200m in Liévin and will be his main opponent over the longer distance.

In the women’s 60m, European champion Olesya Povh (personal best 7.13) and her runner-up Mariya Ryemyen (7.15) are the favourites but both Ukrainians will find in Laverne Jones-Ferrette (Virgin Islands) a fierce competitor as she set an impressive 7.08 in Houston. World 100m finalist Ivet Lalova has also showed good form in breaking her personal best with 7.16 in Karlsruhe on Sunday.

Can Kszczot’s momentum continue?

Frenchman Mehdi Baala, for a rare indoor appearance, will meet some of the best 1500m specialists in the world. Silas Kiplagat, silver medallist at the World Championships last year and winner in New York’s mile in late January will lead a strong Kenyan squad. It includes 2011 world indoor leader Nixon Chepseba, and 3000m specialist Daniel Kipchirchir Komen.

At 800m, the new Polish star Adam Kszczot will try to confirm the great form he displayed at 600m (1:15:26 in Moscow) and above all 800m where he smashed his personal best to set a world-leading mark in Dusseldorf (1:45.44). He will meet his runner-up in Moscow, 2004 Olympic Champion Yuriy Borzakovsky, and new prodigy Mohamed Aman, 18, World Youth Record holder with 1:43:37.

At 60m Hurdles, the double World Indoor champion (2008 and 2010) Lolo Jones (USA) will try to improve her world-leading mark (7.89), while Cuban star Dayron Robles has withdrawn from the men’s race due to hamstring pains. American Kevin Craddock, who beat Robles in Dusseldorf in 7.53 will be the favourite, chased by Frenchmen Dimitry Bascou and Ladji Doucouré.

Cuba has sent a strong contingent for the Triple Jump with Alexis Copello, Ernesto Reve and Arnie David Girat, but Frenchman Benjamin Compaoré will be keen to show his current shape in one rare indoor outcome.

Two more Olympic champions from Kenya will be present in Liévin: steeplechaser Brimin Kipruto will test himself at 3000m and 800m specialist Pamela Jelimo will try to renew with her past form.

Pierre-Jean Vazel for the IAAF