Diamond-class Lavillenie puts Rio tears behind him



Renaud Lavillenie firmly buried memories of being reduced to tears by a hostile home crowd at the Rio Olympics by continuing his domination of the Diamond League.

A weeping Lavillenie became one of the most poignant images from the Games as he struggled with the partisan crowd backing eventual gold medal winner, local hero Thiago Braz.

When the Frenchman, champion at the 2012 London Olympics, was jeered and heckled as he received his silver medal on the podium, tears were seen flowing down his face.

IOC president Thomas Bach, IAAF supremo Sebastian Coe and pole vault legend Sergey Bubka, an IAAF vice president, were among those who rushed to console him.

After leaving the Frenchman, Bach said it was "shocking behaviour for the crowd to boo Renaud Lavillenie on the medal podium. Unacceptable behaviour at the Olympic Games".

Lavillenie himself said at the time: "It's disgusting, there is a total lack of fair-play and I want to stress that the Brazilian (Braz) is not involved at all. But I am going to move on."

And move on he has done, tying with American Sam Hendricks for victory in Thursday's Diamond League in Zurich -- Braz settling for third -- after also winning in Paris last week.

Lavillenie had gone into the competition, with just an outing at the Decanation in Marseille to round out his season, knowing he had done enough to win the Diamond Race, which brings $40,000 (35,700 euros) for the discipline's top finisher.

"I won the Diamond League for the seventh time," the Frenchman said of his record streak. "It's super. I'm very proud and very happy.

"The Diamond Race is a very special trophy because you have to be on top several times, you have to perform at your best many times.

"It is a hard competition. You have to struggle to stay on top."

The Clermont-based vaulter added: "I have a beautiful collection now! It's not only about the prize money, although that is a nice recompense."

Lavillenie was also full of praise for one of the highlights of the Zurich Diamond League: holding the women's pole vault in the main hall of the Swiss city's central train station.

"Last year when the pole vault took place at the central station, I didn't compete," he said. "But this year I went there to watch the women compete.

"It was incredible, a totally different event with a great audience and atmosphere."

IAAF president Coe has long pushed the concept of "street athletics", taking field events out to the public to widen appeal to a younger audience.

Briton Holly Bradshaw won the event, where the runway was raised to the landing mat, lined on one side by a temporary scaffolded seating area with standing room on the other side and at the far end of the mat.

"Personally I really love street meets. It gets the most out of me and the crowd was amazing," she said, with fans packed in around the runway to make for a special event.

Second-placed American Sandi Morris admitted it was a "very peculiar place to compete, people are very close".

"But I love it! I was feeding off their energy," she said.

Greece's Olympic champion Katerina Stefanidi added: "It's really nice to feel the audience right next to you, but it's very different from being in a big stadium and it takes a little getting used to."