August 18, 2015 / 11:20 AM / 2 years ago

Lavillenie aims for a first at world championships

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Renaud Lavillenie of France competes in the men's pole vault qualifying round during the IAAF World Athletics Championships at the Luzhniki stadium in Moscow, Russia, in this August 10, 2013 file photo.Phil Noble/Files

BEIJING (Reuters) - Renaud Lavillenie may be pole vault royalty with his world record and Olympic gold medal but there is one link missing in his illustrious career.

The Frenchman has never won an world championship outdoors.

Three times Lavillenie has stepped on to the podium at the global meeting, but never as the champion.

Back in solid form after a midseason slump, he hopes to soar to the top at the Beijing world championships, which begin on Saturday with pole vault qualifying on the agenda.

The finals come on Monday.

"The main goal is just to be the first which is something very hard because I did not do it at the last three world championships," Lavillenie told Reuters.

A leap of 6.03 meters in London in late July has given him the confidence it may finally happen.

"I am happy to be in China in good shape with good training," said the winner of bronze medals at the 2009 and 2011 world championships and a silver in 2011.

"With the last competition I did (London) I hope if I am in good shape and able to win, I will be able to reach 6 meters or something more.

"But if I jump 5.80 and am world champion, that is OK with me," Lavillenie added with a smile.

A clearance of at least that height likely will be needed to top the podium, he said, noting five vaulters have been over 5.90m this year.

Defending his Olympic title in Rio is not at the top of his thoughts at the moment.

"It is important but I have many goals and I don't want to make anything in the wrong order," said Lavillenie, who set world record of 6.16 meters in 2014.

"The (first) goal will be Beijing, then the end of the season. Then I will have my indoor season with the worlds and my meeting, then we will see about the Olympics."

A charity event for top Austrian women's pole vaulter Kira Grunberg, who was paralyzed in a training accident last month, will be part of his late season schedule.

Lavillenie also will launch his own pole vault meeting next winter, hoping to bring the world's top men's and women's jumpers together for a showdown in his hometown of Clermont-Ferrand, France on Feb. 21.

But first he will be looking for gold in Beijing.

To miss again, would mean waiting two more years for another chance, something the 28-year-old Lavillenie would prefer not to do.

Editing by Sudipto Ganguly

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