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Angers, FranceConfirming his superb form, Renaud Lavillenie won the Pole Vault with a 5.85m leap while Christophe Lemaitre won the sprint double for the third consecutive year to highlight the French national championships over the weekend.
Lavillenie remained unbeaten this season in five outdoor competitions following his World Indoor title in March. On Sunday (17), his dominance over the discipline was obvious as he opened his competition at 5.62m, a height that Romain Mesnil had to clear to get second place. Disturbed by the swirling winds in the Stade du Lac du Maine, he managed to vault 5.77m with his second attempt. Full of confidence, he was successful at 5.85m but was disappointed to not improve his 5.90m world leading mark as he missed 5.95m three times.
"It’s frustrating because I feel I was ready to do it, I just needed to have better wind conditions," the winner said. "However, the good series continues, I'm surprising myself to be able to jump these heights at each meeting."
Indeed, his lowest mark this year is 5.82m, which is so far the performance set by the second best pole vaulters in the World, Germans Björn Otto and Malte Mohr. "I’m not planning to have a peak form at European Championships or Olympic Games. I’m just looking to be able to duplicate high quality performance in any conditions."
Another double for patiently improving Lemaitre
The conditions were particularly conducive for fast sprinting on Saturday (16), as Christophe Lemaitre ran 9.94, the second best time of his career but the wind (+2.6) was over the legal limit. In his wake were Jimmy Vicaut (10.05) and Emmanuel Biron (10.10).
"This time is worthless because of the wind, however it gives me confidence that my form is getting gradually better," he said.
The national record holder (9.92) opened his season with a mere 10.45 (-1.7) in late April, then ran 10.05 (+2.2) and 10.04 (-0.1) in May.
"I will have to prove that I’m in shape in running sub-ten with still wind conditions, and this will happen later in the season. These national championships were scheduled early, and the terrible spring weather during spring in French has kind of delayed my outdoor preparation," he justified. "I still feel a little heavy, with the impression of not moving fast."
The next day in the 200m, Vicaut led for 150m before fading to third place in 20.58, yet a new personal best, the same time as second placer Ben Bassaw, while Lemaitre’s late surge gave him the gold medal in 20.31 (+0.5).
"I need to work my endurance for sure," said last year's World 200m bronze medallist, a few minutes after laying on the track, visibly tired by his effort. "But overall these were satisfying championships, as my two goals were to win and to lower my times, which I did." The triple European champion (100m, 200m, 4x100m) two years ago, Lemaitre will only defend his 100m and 4x100m titles in Helsinki, while he plans to only run the 200m and relay in London.
The women's 100m was also very fast, as Ruddy Zang Milama performed a blistering start to win the race in 11.03 (+1.6), matching the Gabonese national record. Behind her, Myriam Soumaré took the French title in 11.21 over 38-year-old Christine Arron (11.34), whose 11.27 in the heats qualified her for the European Championships. There, Soumaré will only defend her 200m European title. Her win (22.75) at the longer distance on Sunday gives her hints that she is right in her preparation. "I wanted to train through the nationals to be in good shape during the European Championships," she said. Johanna Danois was second in a new personal best of 22.86 and Lina Jacques-Sebastien third in 23.00.
Darien survives dramatic hurdles contest
There was drama in the 110m Hurdles competition. In the first heat, 60m hurdle bronze medallist Pascal Martinot-Lagarde hit the third hurdle and stopped his race, just before outsider Bano Traoré fell at the sixth obstacle and severely injured his shoulder. Garfield Darien won the race in 13.40. Second heat went to Dimitri Bascou in 13.40. During the final, Bascou stumbled at the midway and let Darien sail to a clear victory in 13.28 (-0.8), ahead of Samuel Coco-Viloin and Ladji Doucouré, both timed in 13.58. This was a great comeback for the European silver medallist at 110m Hurdles in 2010 and 60m Hurdles in 2011, who missed most of the previous outdoor season through injury. He wasn’t even sure he would race in Angers the day before the race as he was bothered by a sore throat.
"I’m very happy to win my first national title in a very difficult competition for all of us," he said. Coached on the track by his father and former hurdler (13.76 in 1987) Daniel, and in the gym by Triple Jump World Indoor Record holder Teddy Tamgho (who had a second surgery last week on the ankle he broke last year, and will resume his own training in September), Darien seems to be in the shape of his life, as he twice ran 13.24 earlier this year.
The women’s 100m Hurdles final was an exciting tight race with five running under 13 seconds. The photofinish revealed that Alice Decaux won in 12.88 from Aisseta Diawara (same time), while Reina-Flor Okori, Sandra Gomis and Cindy Billaud, all timed in 12.97, finished third, fourth and fifth, respectively.
Pierre-Ambroise Bosse, a few days after lowering his personal best to 1:44.97, won a tactical 800m. Hamid Oualich led at the bell (55.10) but was passed by his younger (20) rival Bosse in the last straight who won in 1:48.52.
Mélina Robert-Michon took her 12th national title at discus throw (60.57m) and double Olympic champion Françoise Mbango (in 2004 and 2008 representing Cameroun) was selected for the first time in the French delegation after winning the Triple Jump with 14.27m.