Lavillenie's 6.07m pole vault vanishes, and Britain's European indoor gold arrives
Sunday, 03 March 2013
March 3 - Never has a gold medallist been more wretched.
Never has a man whose performance stands clear as the best in the world list been more frustrated.
Renaud Lavillenie, France's Olympic pole vault champion, cleared 6.01 metres, the best height recorded this year, in winning his third consecutive European Athletics Indoor title here tonight, but at the end of the competition he sank onto the track in despair after what he had been convinced was a successful last-attempt clearance of 6.07m - four centimetres further than his best and closer than any other man has managed to get to Sergey Bubka's 1993 world record of 6.15m -– was ruled ineligible.
As Lavillenie, distraught, hid his face in his hands, while the photographers and television cameras were drawn towards him despite the fact that the women's 60 metres final was about to start, the bar remained mockingly intact on its supports above him.
No wonder the Frenchman had raved with frustration and thundered a mighty kick of rage into the hoardings before subsiding in disbelief.
He later accepted his victor's bouquet as if it were infested with greenfly, hurling it swiftly over the barriers.
"I am very sad about the rules," he said afterwards.
"Everyone saw that the bar was still up."
Lavillenie was right - but as officials later explained, in clearing the bar he had shifted it further than was admissible.
The International Association of Athletics Federation regulation which operated in this case was Rule 182.2.a, which states that a vault shall be declared ineligible if "the bar does not remain on both pegs because of the action of the athlete".
Cold comfort indeed for Lavillenie, who had erupted out of the pit for the second successive time after his earlier celebration of the 6.01 clearance which had effectively done for the challenge of his perennial runner-up over the last two years, Bjorn Otto.
The German, too, had reason to feel frustrated given that he would be the Olympic, European, world indoor and European indoor champion today – were it not for Lavillenie.
Overall, it was a good day for Russia, who finished the Championships top of the medal table for the fifth time in the last seven stagings, and for Britain, for whom the final day's 400m and 400m relay events proved as richly profitable as they had hoped,yielding three golds and two silvers to boost their overall total to eight medals.
Perri Shakes-Drayton set a 2013 world best time of 50.85sec in dominating the individual race, with Eilidh Child taking silver with a personal best of 51.45.
Both women later teamed up with Shana Cox, sixth in the individual, and Olympic silver medallist Christine Ohuruogu to earn relay gold ahead of Russia in a time of 3min 27.56sec which was a national record, a Championship record, and the fastest recorded this year.
And indeed the fifth best in the all-time lists.
The men also came up with the goods for Britain, as Nigel Levine took silver in the individual event and then produced a wondrous run on the third leg to effectively ensure victory for a British quartet which also included Michael Bingham, Richard Buck and Richard Strachan.
Britain's gold was briefly in doubt as they were disqualified because Buck had run briefly onto the infield after being crowded by his Polish opponent, but was ruled to have acted inadvertently after an appeal.
Poland were then disqualified.
For a while, home fans were daring to dream of two more golds to add to the one supplied on the previous day by their naturalised Ethiopian Abeba Aregawi in the 1500m as Sweden supplied two of the three women still contesting medals in the high jump, and their long jumper Michel Torneus started setting national records in an effective head-to-head with Russia's Aleksandr Menkov.
In the end there were no more golds, however, as Menkov managed a 2013 world best of 8.31 to fend off the challenge of the Swede, who had followed the national record of 8.27 set in the first round with a final effort of 8.29.
And in the high jump, gold went to Spain's 33-year-old Ruth Beitia, who had won three silvers and a bronze at these championships but was beginning to think she would never take the top prize.
Ebba Jungmark and Emma Green-Tregaro had to settle for silver and bronze respectively.
But the late surge of medals meant that the host nation will finished these Championships as perhaps the happiest of nations, given that they have earned sixth place in the table - with one gold, two silvers and three bronzes - having finished 21st two years ago in Paris with just a solitary bronze.
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