Renaud Lavillenie produced the best performance of the first day of the French Indoor Championships, taking place this weekend (27-28) at the Stadium Jean Pellez in Clermont-Ferrand.
To mark the forthcoming release of ‘Race’ – the movie about Jesse Owens which will hit European cinemas on 11 March – many competitors at the championships wore a special bib featuring the number 733 to commemorate the number Owens was assigned in Berlin.
Directed by Stephen Hopkins, Race recounts the life of Jesse Owens, who won four gold medals at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin.
“He is an emblem of the global athletics,” said Renaud Lavillenie after vaulting 5.93m to clinch his eighth national indoor title. “He was an exceptional athlete. And what he did, in such circumstances, is very noteworthy. He is an inspiring figure.”
The Olympic champion was hampered by some problems with his ankle and knee at the start of the indoor season, which is why he was not at his best during his first few appearances. But he showed clear improvement when he cleared a world-leading 6.02m in Clermont-Ferrand last weekend.
The world record-holder was the only athlete left in the competition when he opened his series at 5.77m. Stanley Joseph exited at 5.70m, while Jerome Clavier failed three times at 5.63m. They finished second and third respectively with 5.63m and 5.50m.
Lavillenie cleared his opening height on his first attempt to secure the victory. He then cleared 5.93m on his first try before failing three times at 6.03m.
“It was an interesting but not easy competition,” said Lavillenie. “I felt tired because of the previous weekend. And it was not ideal to wait one-and-a-half hours to start the competition. But it’s the first time this indoor season I started at 5.77m.”
The world bronze medallist still feels some minor discomfort with his knee, but he is coping with it. “I’m not at 100% but I’m still able to jump high,” he said.
He will compete in Jablonec next weekend before heading to Portland where he is set on regaining his crown. Lavillenie won the world indoor title in 2012 but was forced to withdraw in 2014 after injuring his foot when attempting to clear 6.21m.
Mayer sets two PBs
As part of his preparation for the World Indoor Championships, European decathlon silver medallist Kevin Mayer entered four of the seven heptathlon events.
He smashed his 60m PB with 6.95, taking 0.15 off his previous mark. He also improved his lifetime best in the shot put with 15.97m to add 42 centimetres to the PB he set earlier this month. He will compete in the pole vault tomorrow.
In the absence of European 100m record-holder Jimmy Vicaut, Christophe Lemaitre lived up to his status as favourite in the 60m. Following a 6.68 heat, Lemaitre overcame a sluggish in the final to win in 6.64.
“The most important thing was to win,” said Lemaitre, who will contest the 200m tomorrow.
Competing as a guest, Marie Josee Ta Lou of the Ivory Coast won the women's 60m in 7.12, 0.06 ahead of Carole Zahi.
The women’s triple jump was a tight contest. World U20 champion Rouguy Diallo took the lead with a PB of 14.13m in round two, but Jeanine Assani Issouf responded one round later with 14.17m to take the title. Diallo improved to 14.16m in round four, but missed out on victory by one centimetre.
“Going to Portland would have been a good experience for the outdoor season,” said Assani Issouf after falling short of the 14.30m qualifying standard for the World Indoor Championships.
Cindy Billaud prevailed in the women’s 60m hurdles in 8.07, defeating Sandra Gomis (8.12) and Aisseta Diawara (8.15).
Morhad Amdouni is the only French man with the 3000m qualifying standard for Portland, but he hasn’t yet decided if he will compete there and so skipped the national indoor championships to focus on next weekend’s French Cross Country Championships.
Guillaume Adam took advantage of Amdouni’s absence to win his first national title in 8:07:42 as defending champion Hassan Chahdi finished a distant sixth. Adam’s goal is to qualify for the Olympics in the 1500m.
Quentin Guillon for the IAAF