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August 8, 2017
London, England

On a raw London night, 12 finalists in the men’s pole vault got underway with an opening height of 5.50m/18’½”. Major casualties came early as ’13 world champion Raphael Holzdeppe no-heighted on the opening bar. U.S high school phenom Armand Duplantis – competing for Sweden – went 3 and out at the next height of 5.65m/18’6½.

Four perfect jumpers – Sam Kendricks, Renaud Lavillenie, Changrui Xue, and Pawel Wojchiechowski – were knotted at the top as the bar went to 5.75m/18’10¼”. Defending champion Shawn Barber was among those who failed there while the American, French, and Chinese jumpers plus Piotr Lisek – another Pole – made first attempt clearances.

Kendricks and Xue kept their cards clean with first attempt clearances at 5.82m/19’1” But after failing on their initial vaults, Lavillenie – who won his Olympic title in this stadium – and the two Poles all passed to the next height.

Lisek’s pass at the earlier height looked particularly brilliant at the next bar – 5.87m/19’3” – as he moved into second behind Kendricks as those two were the only first attempt successes. Lavillenie cleared on his second attempt while Wojchiecheowski went out. Following 3 misses – his first of the evening – Xue was transformed him from co-leader to spectator.
Only three competitors remained as the officials set the bar at 5.95m/19’6¼. Kendricks, Lisek, and Lavillenie were all guaranteed a medal, but what color? None could clear in their first two attempts. On the 3rd round of jumps – after Lisek missed and went out – the American, technically sound all night, unfurled a majestic clearance as the crowd roared. What would the London Olympic champion do? Lavillenie could take his third attempt which, if cleared, would move him into 2nd place, but still trailing Kendricks. Or he could pass and take one final crack at possible gold at 6.01m/19’8½. Without hesitation, the Frenchman passed.

After a first round miss by Kendrick, Lavillenie fidgeted alone in the darkness before his only jump at 6.01m. His last valiant effort was unsuccessful and set the medals: gold for Kendricks; silver for Lisek; with Lavillenie taking the bronze.
"I am very happy to be able to fight until the end,” offered a relieved Lavillenie, recovering from a string of injuries. Lisek revealed his competitiveness. "When I saw the conditions here, I told myself I must fight for gold. I wanted to beat Sam today but he was stronger and deserves the victory,” said the Pole. And Kendricks – who earlier this season became only the 22nd man to clear 6.00 meters – was gracious and articulate as ever. “It is all part of a mission for me. I make a goal and chop it down to make it attainable. I've finally got that world title and I could not be happier. It was another fantastic competition today and I had to jump high to take the gold."

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Dave Hunter

Dave HunterDave Hunter is a track & field journalist, announcer, and broadcaster.  Dave reports on the premier track & field gatherings around the globe, frequently serves as an arena or stadium announcer for championship events, and has undertaken foreign and domestic broadcast assignments in the sport.


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