Armand Duplantis, as expected, added the European indoor pole vault title to his rapidly growing list of achievements at the Torun 2021 European Athletics Indoor Championships, requiring only three first-time clearances to win the title at 5.85m before scaling a championship record of 6.05m on his second attempt.
For a man who has cleared 6.10m this season, and who set world records of 6.17m – in this same arena - and then 6.18m last year, the task of earning his first major indoor gold was relatively straightforward.
Many would have expected the name of Lavillenie to appear in at least the silver medal position given the way the 34-year-old former world record-holder has revived his fortunes this year – but very few would have expected it to be Valentin, Renaud Lavillenie’s 29-year-old brother Valentin.
He was congratulated by his elder brother – who pulled out of the competition on Saturday as a precaution after feeling a pain in his leg – after equalling his personal best of 5.80m, with his first-time clearance keeping home vaulter Piotr Lisek in bronze medal position on countback.
With gold secure, the 21-year-old phenomenon, based in Louisiana but a competitor for Sweden, the birthplace of his mother, moved the bar up to 6.05m, a championship record. He cleared it at the second attempt to vanquish Lavillenie’s - Renaud, that it - six-year-old championship record of 6.04m.
On he went to a world record height of 6.19m, but on this occasion – despite a close call with his second effort – it proved too much for him. He could afford to smile, exhilarated by the challenge.
Shortly afterwards there was another record attempt from another confirmed gold medallist as Ukraine’s 19-year-old phenomenon Yaroslava Mahuchikh, whose clearance of 2.00m had finally seen off the challenge of teammate Iryna Herashchenko, set her sights on what would have been a championship record and personal best of 2.07m.
Like Duplantis, she didn’t reach her target; like Duplantis, she surely soon will.
Herashchenko screamed, repeatedly, in delight after earning silver with a personal best of 1.98m, with bronze going to Finland’s equally pleased Ella Junilla, who set a national record of 1.96m. This was Finland’s second medal of the session after Lotta Kemppinen’s silver medal-winning performance in the 60m flat.
Earlier in the day, a dramatic men’s high jump final had been won by Maksim Nedasekau of Belarus with a first-time clearance of 2.37m, the best in the world this year, that finally ended the challenge of Italy’s defending champion Gianmarco Tamberi.
There was high drama in the women’s triple jump in which the lead and national record of 14.53m established in the third round by Portugal’s Patricia Mamona was put under heavy pressure by the sixth and final effort of Ana Peleteiro.
The 25-year-old Spaniard was already celebrating before she hit the sand, and she was not wrong in her instincts, but when the digits came up she had fallen one centimetre short of Mamona’s best.
Bronze went to Germany’s Neele Eckhardt, who produced a personal best of 14.52m.
The men’s triple jump earlier in the day had seen Mamona’s Portuguese teammate Pedro Pablo Pichardo live up to his billing as favourite as he earned gold with a best of 17.30m.
The 1000m which concluded the heptathlon was effectively a victory run for France’s world decathlon record-holder Kevin Mayer, who was out of reach of any of his rivals and finished with a winning total of 6392 points after finishing seventh out of the remaining eight competitors in 2:45.72.
These championships enabled Mayer to win his first senior medal, a silver, in 2013 and he added his first gold in 2017.
The concluding race was alive, however, as Dutch athlete Rik Taam made a brave but ultimately unsuccessful front-running effort to supplant Poland’s Pawel Wiesiolek, who had surpassed himself in finishing second to Mayer in the penultimate pole vault in the bronze medal position.
Taam won the race in a personal best of 2:35.35 and totalled a personal best score of 6111 points but Wiesiolek retained the bronze with 6133 points, behind the 2019 champion Jorge Urena of Spain, who totalled 6158.
Simon Ehammer, the 21-year-old Swiss athlete who had pushed Mayer the hardest before failing to record a height in the penultimate event of the pole vault, elected not to run the concluding event.