Renaud Lavillenie (6.02m CR) and Jenn Suhr (4.90m) Claim Pole Vault Titles to Open 2016 World Indoor Championships

March 17, 2016

PORTLAND, Ore. — The 2016 IAAF World Indoor Championships kicked off with the men’s and women’s pole vault on Thursday night at the Oregon Convention Center as Olympic champs Jenn Suhr and Renaud Lavillenie showed they have every intention of retaining their crowns in Rio by earning World Indoor titles. Suhr cleared 4.90 meters — the same height she soared over at last week’s U.S. champs at the same venue — to earn her first World Indoor gold and setting a new championship record. Lavillenie took his World Indoor title haul to two (he also won in 2012) by establishing a new championship record of 6.02 meters, the highest indoor mark ever achieved on U.S. soil.

Results and quick takes below.

© Getty Images for IAAF

Lavillenie celebrates a new meet record. © Getty Images for IAAF

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Men’s pole vault

Renaud Lavillenie took his first attempt over two hours after the competition began — 9:07 p.m., to be precise (just after midnight on the East Coast) but his performance tonight was worth the wait. Lavillenie required only two easy clearances to clinch his second world indoor title, and after taking down Steve Hooker’s championship record (6.02 meters), he took three exciting attempts at the world record.

American Sam Kendricks was perfect through four attempts but missed his first at 5.85 and his final two after passing to 5.90. That was still good enough for silver, a nice improvement on his ninth-place finish at World outdoors last year. Poland’s Piotr Lisek took the bronze.

POS BIB ATHLETE COUNTRY MARK DETAIL 5.40 5.55 5.65 5.75 5.80 5.85 5.90 6.02 6.17
3 312 Piotr LISEK POLPOL 5.75 O XO O XX- X
4 143 Shawnacy BARBER CANCAN 5.75 O XXO XXO XX- X
6 314 Robert SOBERA POLPOL 5.65 O O XXX
7 230 Konstadínos FILIPPÍDIS GREGRE 5.65 XO O XO XXX
9 166 Michal BALNER CZECZE 5.55 O O XXX
10 261 Seito YAMAMOTO JPNJPN 5.55 XO O XXX
10 224 Carlo PAECH GERGER 5.55 XO O XXX
12 202 Jérôme CLAVIER FRAFRA 5.55 O XO XXX
12 134 Thiago Braz DA SILVA BRABRA 5.55 XO XX- X
14 135 Augusto Dutra DE OLIVEIRA BRABRA 5.40 XO XXX

Quick Take #1: We Like Opening with a Pole Vault But 3 Hours and 15 Minutes is Too Long

We applaud the IAAF for trying new things and starting World Indoors with the pole vault competition. However, it lasted way too long. The women’s competition was manageable and ended in about 2 hours.

The only problem? Renaud Lavillenie, the world record holder in the men’s event, had not even taken his first attempt at that point. That came at 9:07 pm. The men’s and women’s competition started at 7:05.

Lavillenie eventually took world record attempts after 10 p.m., but when he took them people in attendance had already left.

The IAAF needs to come up with a new format for the vault or pare the field down to about 8 finalists if they want fans to stick around.

As for the crowd, there were some empty seats (we heard last week that more tickets had been sold/given away for opening night than there were seats. For example fans of the Portland Timbers had the opportunity to get free tickets and two free beers), but there were also 300+ high school kids sitting on the track watching. So the place was nearly full. However, at times, the crowd was waiting for something exciting to happen and some felt they had had enough before it was over.

If an event like this is going to be done in the future, the IAAF should not use its traditional announcers. It should go watch a rodeo or circus and get one of their announcers. Those guys build up excitement and don’t just let the action on the track speak for itself. That is what announcers at nearly all professional sports events do these days, at least in the United States.

Quick Take #2: Thumbs Up For Renaud Lavillenie Putting On A Show For The Fans In Oregon

As we mentioned above, the meet did drag on a bit on the men’s side and consequently not all the fans stayed until the very end. However, those that did stick around were rewarded by seeing Renaud Lavillenie break the meet record and take three attempts at a new world record of 6.17m.
Lavillenie laughs off his terrifying fall. © Getty Images for IAAF

Lavillenie laughs off his terrifying fall. © Getty Images for IAAF

The atmosphere in the stadium during his last four jumps was electric and made it well worth the wait. The crowd went crazy when he went over the 6.02 MR as the music blared and strobe lights started flashing to celebrate the new mark. Then everyone was really into Lavillenie’s world record attempts, giving him a thunderous slow-clap buildup for all three jumps. The anticipation of watching him fly down the runway, sitting there wondering if we were about to witness history, was riveting and exactly what track and field is about. The guy almost did a faceplant from 20 feet in the air on his second attempt, and still went for a third one. Guts, baller, badass, whatever you want to call it, it was great entertainment and Lavillenie deserves some props for going for it.

On the other hand, we would have loved if Jenn Suhr had done the same on the women’s side. Especially considering she was competing in front of the home crowd, we can only imagine what the fans would have been like for her attempts. Sadly, we will never know.

Video with Lavillenie

Quick Take #3: Big Thumbs Down To Whatever Idiot Was Picking The Music On Lavillenie’s Second World Record Attempt

As we mentioned above, Lavillenie’s second attempt involved a terrifying, possibly deadly fall from 20 feet in the air when he fell from straight up and almost missed the mat. Coincidentally (or maybe not?), rather than the pump-up music that had been playing over the loud speakers for every single jump of the night, whoever was up there thought it would be funny to play the sound of a ticking clock as Lavillenie’s time to take his attempt ran down (for the record he still had plenty of time with over two minutes on the clock when he started his run-up).

Not cool and not funny. The man was trying to vault higher than any human being ever has and someone decided to make a joke of it and possibly put extra stress on Lavillenie as he tried to psych himself up for the attempt. We propose a new rule banning the sound of ticking clocks or the Jeopardy theme song from playing over stadium speakers when athletes are trying to throw themselves 20 feet in the air.

Quick Take #4: Sam Kendricks gets it

Kendricks vaulted superbly tonight, but he also deserves praise for taking full advantage of competing on his home stage. None of the vaulters had asked for crowd support until Kendricks implored them to begin rhythmically clapping on his first attempt at 5.55 meters. Having had nothing to do for close to an hour and craving a way to become involved, the crowd responded instantaneously.

Later, Kendricks watched Lavillenie’s attempts at the world record with the fans invited to watch the event on the first turn of the track, chatting and allowing them to sign his pole.

“I appreciate you guys so much,” Kendricks told the fans after earning his silver medal.

Hosting a world championships is a rare opportunity; hopefully Kendricks’ crowd-friendly performance tonight earned him a few more fans.

Video interview with Kendricks:

© Getty Images for IAAF

Your medalists. © Getty Images for IAAF

Women’s pole vault

Last week at USAs, 4.90 meters was only good enough for second for Jenn Suhr as Sandi Morris produced the best performance of her life to clear 4.95 (the fifth-highest clearance ever indoors). But 4.90 was all Suhr needed tonight to earn the first World Indoor title of her career, going a perfect four-for-four (4.60, 4.75, 4.85, 4.90) en route to gold.

After Morris’ miss at 4.95 handed Suhr the title, officials initially raised the bar to 5.04 for Suhr to go after her own world record set in January. But Suhr then reversed course and elected to retire, content with her world title, championship record, and her health.

“With [USAs] not too long ago, my calf was pretty tight and my knee was here or there,” Suhr said. “I wanted to start the season healthy and end the season healthy.”

POS BIB ATHLETE COUNTRY MARK DETAIL 4.35 4.50 4.60 4.70 4.75 4.80 4.85 4.90 4.95
1 841 Jennifer SUHR USAUSA 4.90 CR O O O O R
2 830 Sandi MORRIS USAUSA 4.85 O O O XO O O XX- X
3 688 Ekateríni STEFANÍDI GREGRE 4.80 O O O O O X- XX
6 623 Fabiana MURER BRABRA 4.60 O O XXX
8 647 Romana MALÁCOVÁ CZECZE 4.50 XO O XXX

Quick Take #1: Congrats to Suhr on a terrific season — though it’s too bad for the fans that they didn’t get to see any world record attempts

Though Suhr didn’t win the U.S. title, she ends the indoor season with a world record and a world championship. Very impressive. The one downer was that fans didn’t get to see Suhr — who would have had three chances at it — try for a world record on home soil. When Suhr broke the world record earlier this year, it was on one of the smallest scenes possible — the Golden Eagle Invitational in tiny Brockport, N.Y. Tonight provided a rare opportunity for Suhr to do it in front of a large American crowd but she turned it down.

We can’t totally fault her. The Olympics is her main focus this year, and Suhr admitted that she wasn’t 100% going into tonight’s vault and didn’t want to risk further damage. The fans will still go home happy with Americans going 1-2, but we’re sure that more than a few of them will be thinking of what could have been if Suhr attempted a world record height.

Quick Take #2: Sandi Morris didn’t have it tonight and was pleased to still manage 4.85

When Morris made a lot of contact with the bar on her clearance of 4.75 meters, it looked as if she might struggle to get to go higher. She brushed the bar again on 4.80 meters and sent it rocking at 4.85 but it didn’t fall off on either occasion.

After the competition, Morris admitted that she wasn’t at her best technically, but her performance tonight showed just how far she’s come in a short timespan. Her all-time best entering 2016 was 4.76 and as recently as a week ago, 4.85 would have been a lifetime best by five centimeters.

“I was pretty off tonight,” Morris said. “My technique was not on. To pull it together and know I can make 4.85 on a night where my technique feels off, that feels pretty good.”

Quick Take #3: Video Interviews With Jenn Suhr And Sandi Morris