What a difference a season makes. Last year at this time, Australian Steve Hooker was on top of the world after his Olympic win. Indoors, Hooker toured the world, awing fans from New York to Melbourne with 6-meter clearances and world record assaults. His undefeated streak lasted almost a year, but injury and the emergence of a young star have derailed his preparations and, more importantly, his secure place at the top.
Still #2 in the world outdoors in 2009, Hooker is nonetheless looking up at 22-year-old French sensation Renaud Lavillenie. That's right, a man who would probably still be in college in the USA cleared 6.01m this year, joining an exclusive club of men over the magical barrier. Perhaps the youngster spurned on the veteran Romain Mesnil, also a Frenchman, who cleared 5.82m to sit at 3rd in the world outdoors in 2009.
Traditionally an event where American men have secured at least one medal in international championship competition, the USA looks primed to do the same in 2009 with reigning world champion Brad Walker back in the mix thanks to his USATF Championships win in Eugene. Walker is #6 in the world with a 5.80m clearance, while teammates Derek Miles, Toby Stevenson and Jeremy Scott are numbers 8, 9 and 10 in the world at 5.75m.
Stevenson, the Athens Olympic silver medalist, has not been vaulting well on the European circuit, so America's best hopes for a top finish look to rest on Walker's shoulders. Walker hit a seasonal best on July 28th in Monaco and looks to be ready to contend.
LRC Predictions: Gold: Steven Hooker AUS Silver: Renaud Lavillenie FRA Bronze: Brad Walker USA 4th: Romain Mesnil FRA
Men's Pole Vault Statistical Analysis By LRC Guru John Kellogg
6.01 Renaud Lavillenie (FRA) (= #9 all-time)
5.95 Steven Hooker (AUS) PR 6.06i (#2 all-time) (2009) Gold medal in 2008 Olympic Games, bronze medal in 2008 World Indoor Championships, gold medal in 2006 Commonwealth Games, gold medal in 2006 World Cup. 9th in 2007 World Championships
5.82 Romain Mesnil (FRA) PR 5.95 (2003) Silver medal in 2007 World Championships, bronze medal in 2001 World Indoor Championships, 5th in 2001 World Championships, 6th in 1999 World Indoor Championships, 7th in 2003 World Indoor Championships, 7th in 2004 World Indoor Championships, 4th in 2006 World Cup
5.81 Alexander Straub (GER)
5.80 Malte Mohr (GER)
5.80 Brad Walker (USA) PR 6.04 (AR, #5 all-time) (2008) Gold medal in 2007 World Championships, gold medal in 2006 World Indoor Championships, silver medal in 2008 World Indoor Championships, sliver medal in 2005 World Championships
5.80 Maksim Mazuryk (UKR) PR 5.82 (2008) 6th in 2008 World Indoor Championships, 11th in 2007 World Championships
5.75 Derek Miles (USA) PR 5.85i (2005) 4th in 2008 Olympic Games, 5th in 2003 World Indoor Championships, 6th in 2003 World Championships, 7th in 2004 Olympic Games, 8th in 2008 World Indoor Championships
5.75 Jeremy Scott (USA) PR 5.82i (2009)
5.75 Toby Stevenson (USA) PR 6.00 (#4 all-time USA) (2004) Silver medal in 2004 Olympic Games
5.72 Steven Lewis (GBR) Bronze medal in 2006 Commonwealth Games
5.71 Björn Otto (GER) PR 5.90 (2007) 5th in 2007 World Championships
5.70 Paul Burgess (AUS) PR 6.00 (2005) Silver medal in 2002 Commonwealth Games, 11th in 2004 Olympic Games, 5th in 2002 World Cup, 7th in 1998 World Cup
5.70 Danny Ecker (GER) PR 6.00i (2001) Bronze medal in 2007 World Championships, bronze medal in 1999 World Indoor Championships, 4th in 1999 World Championships, 5th in 2004 Olympic Games, 6th in 2008 Olympic Games, 8th in 2000 Olympic Games, 11th in 2001 World Championships
5.60 Yevgeniy Lukyanenko (RUS) PR 6.01 (= #9 all-time) (2008) Gold medal in 2008 World Indoor Championships, sliver medal in 2008 Olympic Games, 6th in 2007 World Championships
5.50 Denys Yurchenko (UKR) PR 5.85i (2005) Bronze medal in 2008 Olympic Games, bronze medal in 2004 World Indoor Championships, 6th in 2003 World Championships, 9th in 2004 Olympic Games, 12th in 2007 World Championships