Is it time? August 2013 might be the time when two of the longest standing world athletics records are broken at the 14th IAAF Athletics championships in Moscow starting this Saturday.
The men’s pole vault and high jump records have stood for 19 and 20 years respectively, and have been so elusive that no-one has come close to challenging them in that time.
The great Cuban Javier Sotomayor’s record of 2:45 in the high jump was set in July 1993. Almost a year later to the day, Mr Pole Vault, Sergey Bubka, set the outdoor record of 6:14 in Sesterie, Italy.
Anyone who witnessed it, or has seen the footage, could be forgiven for thinking those feats were the closest thing to seeing man fly. These, along with also perhaps Jonathon Edward’s 1995 world triple jump record of 18.29 metres at the Gothenburg World Titles, are truly gravity-defying in appearance.
Two years ago it seemed that Australia’s Steve Hooker was the only consistent member of the six metre pole vault club that looked to be able to challenge the record.
Injury, confidence problems and now a young family, seemed to have retired his chances of maybe ever doing so.
In his wake, the Frenchman Renaud Lavillenie has stepped up to the mark, taking last year’s Olympic gold and the world number one ranking.
Two weeks ago Lavillenie cleared 6:02 metres to win the London Diamond League meeting. He then put the bar up to 6:16. He was not close with both failed attempts, but in fairness, by that time the rain had set in and thus robbed him of the ideal conditions needed to realistically threaten that kind of elevation.
Moscow, along with most of Europe, has enjoyed a very warm July by their standards, with temperatures in the Russian capital reaching the low thirties.
The forecast for the first two days of the championships are for maximums of 28 and 32 degrees, with it even going as high as 34 by Tuesday 13th before thunderstorms will drop the temperatures.
These predicted warm conditions auger well for the qualifying on Saturday 10th and final on Monday 12th, to provide Lavillenie, and his fellow vaulters, with the best chances of going beyond six metres and maybe the record.
While Lavillenie has some very keen competition from the Germans, Bjorn Otto, Malte Mohr and Raphael Holzdeppe, the Frenchman is the one with serious form going into Moscow.
Lavillenie’s excitement, with his current form, was evident in a recent online diary post.
“Frankly, I did not expect to reach such a level of consistency. I trained well and now know that I am able to jump high whatever the scenario. I already look forward to be in Moscow,” he wrote.
The high jump world record is the most probable to be broken by the end of this season, if not before in Moscow.
Ukrainian high jumper Bohdan Bondarenko has taken all before him this season. He improved his personal best to 2.41 metres in Lausanne, Switzerland on July 4.
After winning the London Diamond League contest on July 27 with a leap of 2.38 metres, he raised the bar to 2:43 for one miss, then to the world record height of 2:47 for two very close attempts before bowing out.
This should buoy him for a serious tilt at the record on August 15, weather permitting, as thunderstorms are forecast for that day.
The mid season back injury to the exciting Qatar youngster, Mutaz Essa Barshim, has curtailed his fitness with him only returning to competition in London, placing third, behind Bondarenko. The contest between the two should be a championship highlight in the field in Moscow.
Perhaps Australia’s best medal chance in the field will come with the exciting return of the world indoor long jump champion, Fabrice Lapierre.
Lapierre’s return to form at the London Diamond League was so impressive that it will take some exceptional jumping from his competitors to keep him out of the world championship medals.
His fourth round leap of 8.17 metres led the contest until the final round when Russian, Aleksandr Menkov jumped 8.31 to snatch the win.
Another serious medal chance rests with Western Australian javelin thrower, Kim Mickle, who is in the form of her life. This season she has improved her personal best to 64.35 metres set at the Paris Diamond League meeting on July 6.
Having fellow Australian Kathryn Mitchell also throwing consistently could perhaps push them both to achieve something special in Moscow.
Mickle is currently third in the Diamond League standings so a medal, in Moscow, is a realistic possibility for her. Like Lapierre, Mickle would like to erase the disappointment she had in London twelve months ago, where she failed to make the Olympic final.
Mickle’s good form has been rewarded by her being named the vice captain of the Australian team behind defending world champion hurdler Sally Pearson.
“Who better to share this mantle with than with Sally. She is the biggest legend I know and an unbelievable athlete,” Mickle said.
The other Australian’s in the 46 strong team who have qualified for the field events are:
Ben Harradine, Julian Wruck, and 2009 world champion, Dani Samuels: discus.
Hamish Peacock: javelin.
Alana Boyd: pole vault.
Brendan Starc: high jump.
The 14th IAAF World Championships are being held in Moscow, Russia, August 10-18.