PORTLAND, Ore. (Reuters) - Pole vaulters Renaud Lavillenie and Jenn Suhr claimed the first gold medals of the World Indoor Championships with record-breaking clearances on Thursday, while IAAF chief Sebastian Coe was reminded that restoring fan trust could take time.
Lavillenie dominated the men’s competition, vaulting a championship best 6.02 meters to reclaim the title he won in 2012 but was unable to defend two years ago due to injury.
After watching his rivals toil through the opening three rounds, the world record holder entered the competition at 5.75m and coolly cleared his first attempt then sat down and passed on the next two heights.
The confident Frenchman rejoined the competition at 5.90m and sailed clear on his first attempt to seal victory, before repeating the feat at 6.02m.
With the gold medal secure, all that was left was three unsuccessful attempts at a new world mark of 6.17m.
“For the world record, I have to put everything in good order and it is not very easy,” he told reporters of his failed attempt to add a centimeter to his existing best.
“I am very happy to first of all take the win, for the world record, I have plenty of time for that.”
American Sam Kendricks (5.80m) took the silver and Piotr Lisek (5.75m) of Poland the bronze.
Suhr had a near perfect evening, clearing 4.90m to add the world championship gold to her 2012 Olympic crown and lead an American one-two finish on opening night.
Sandi Morris, who beat Suhr last weekend at the same venue in the U.S. championships, clipped the bar on her final three failures trying to match her compatriot but still claimed the silver as Greece’s Ekaterini Stefanidi grabbed the bronze.
“To come out with the championship record and to have the world record this season and have a world indoor title...” an amazed Suhr told reporters after capturing her first world title.
“I haven’t really processed it because I‘m like I should have jumped higher but I think this is one of those things I have look back at and say, ‘wow, this was a good season’.”
Overseeing his first major event as International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) president, Coe watched the championships get off to a worrying start, unable to fill the modest venue on opening night.
Earlier on Thursday, Coe acknowledged it would take time to regain fan trust in the wake of recent doping scandals and the enormity of that challenge hit home as the four-day meet failed to attract a bumper crowd despite high quality fields in both pole vault events.
Not helping matters was the fact that fans were denied a showdown between Suhr and her great Russian rival, double Olympic and four-time world indoor champion Yelena Isinbayeva.
Traditional powerhouse Russia will not pose a threat in Portland, however, having been suspended from international competition by the IAAF after a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) probe uncovered evidence of what it termed state-sponsored doping.
Additional reporting Gene Cherry; Editing by John O'Brien