Lavillenie soars to pole vault goldAgence France-Presse . London
Frenchman Renaud Lavillenie won Olympic pole vault gold on Friday after Australia’s reigning champion Steve Hooker bombed out of the final without clearing a single height.
The in-form Lavillenie claimed his first global outdoor title with a new Games record of 5.97m, while German pair Bjorn Otto and Raphael Holzdeppe took silver and bronze respectively after both cleared 5.91m.
The battle for gold was whittled down to a three-man tussle after Lavillenie, Otto and Holzdeppe all notched 5.85m.
The German pair then both went over at 5.91m at their first attempts to crank up the pressure as the European champion failed in his only attempt at that height but, facing elimination, he kept his calm to produce a best of 5.97m.
‘I can’t really believe it,’ said Lavillenie. ‘Maybe tomorrow I will wake up and realise that I am an Olympic champion. The Germans were very strong and they pushed me to my limits. This has to be the best thing in my life.’
It was France’s first gold medal in athletics at the London Games, and follows a rich French tradition in the men’s Olympic pole vault after victories for Pierre Quinon in 1984 and Jean Galfione in 1996.
Lavillenie, 25, has been a consistent performer over the past three years.
He also cleared 5.97m at the 2012 European championships to claim his second continental gold medal after his victory in 2010. He is also the world indoor champion and won world championships bronze medals in 2009 and 2011.
Australia’s Hooker, 30, failed with three attempts to clear 5.65 metres, a full 35cm under his personal best outdoors, and could only look on ruefully as the competition unfolded without him.
A clearly rattled Hooker failed to complete his first two efforts at the height and pulled up on his third attempt with only 50 seconds to go after a botched run-up, leaving himself under time pressure as he crashed into the bar.
Hooker’s failure at the London Games comes after he crashed out of last year’s world championships in Daegu, South Korea, where he failed to register a mark in qualification.
‘It wasn’t exactly the same as last year at the worlds. I felt completely different to how I felt at the worlds last year. I jumped well in qualifying. I jumped well in my warm-up today,’ said Hooker.
‘I was on the biggest pole I’ve used all year and expected to jump higher,’ added the Australian.
Hooker won the Olympic gold medal in Beijing in 2008, the 2009 world title, the 2006 and 2010 Commonwealth Games gold medals and the 2010 world indoor championships.
But his recent career has been hit by a persistent knee injury and an accompanying lack of confidence that has led to what he calls ‘yips’ on the runway, making it difficult for him to take off.
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