France’s 2010 European Athletics Championships pole vault gold medallist Renaud Lavillenie made an impressive comeback after hand surgery in December when he won the 23rd Samsung Pole Vault Stars meeting with 5.82m in the Ukrainian city of Donetsk on Saturday night.
Lavillenie went over his winning height at the first time of asking, as he had done at his earlier heights of 5.52m and 5.72m, at the penultimate European Athletics Indoor Permit Meeting of 2012 before three unsuccessful attempts at 5.92m.
It was the first competition for Lavillenie, who also took the European indoor title last winter, after fracturing his left hand in a training accident on 5 December and he leapt into second place in the 2012 world indoor list.
“It was great to get back into competition. The worst part of the last two months was after my hand had recovered and I could use it again for normal things and I was training but the surgeon had not given me permission to vault. You can imagine that I feel very happy and relieved to have had such a good first competition after the injury,” said Lavillenie.
However, adding to the excitement, Lavillenie was pressed all the way by Germany’s in-form Bjorn Otto, who also went over 5.82m. The 34-year-old had to settle for second place after going over the deciding height with his second attempt but it was his best jump for five years.
Third was another German vaulter Malte Mohr, who went over 5.72m. Further down the results, in eighth place with a season’s best of 5.52m, was Poland’s 2011 world champion Pawel Wojciechowski.
It was an important step forward for Wojciechowski, who also won at the 2011 European Athletics U23 Championships, after suffering a broken cheekbone in a freak training accident on 7 December when a pole slipped in his hands and struck him in the face.
The gold medallist missed three weeks of training at the end of last year and had gone no higher than 5.20m in his previous four competitions this winter.
However, there was less encouraging news about Russia’s Dmitriy Starodubtsev, who has cleared a world-leading 5.90m twice this winter. He injured himself while warming up and decided not to jump.
The women’s competition was won by Czech Republic’s Jirina Ptacnikova, who cleared a national indoor record of 4.70m with her second attempt before unsuccessfully trying a new Czech absolute best of 4.76m.
“It is a great feeling, even my attempts at 4.76m felt very good. I was worried early in the competition, I got 4.30m and then 4.50m on second attempts and my technique was not very consistent; then I made 4.60m with my first attempt and that gave me the desire to win and so I skipped 4.65m and tried 4.70m.
“After clearing the record, I was just jumping around like crazy, smiling and crying like a kid. I was so happy I cannot describe it,” said the thrilled Ptacnikova.
Cuba’s Yarisley Silva was second with 4.60m while Ukrainian junior Hanna Sheleh also cleared the same height in third place.
It was a fantastic performance by the 18-year-old Sheleh, who also hails from Donetsk, as it was a senior national record and the second best ever under any conditions by a junior, only superseded by the world junior record of 4.63m set by Sweden’s Angelica Bengtsson last winter.
Fourth was Poland’s 2009 world champion Anna Rogowska with 4.50m. Russia’s 2010 European Athletics Championships gold medallist Svetlana Feofanova cleared her opening height of 4.40m with her second attempt but then quit the competition due to a minor ankle strain.