Newspaper article International New York Times

Bubka Watches His Record Fall ; Ukrainian's Top Mark, Achieved in 1993, Bested by French Pole- Vaulter

Newspaper article International New York Times

Bubka Watches His Record Fall ; Ukrainian's Top Mark, Achieved in 1993, Bested by French Pole- Vaulter

Article excerpt

The French pole-vaulter Renaud Lavillenie broke Sergei Bubka's nearly 21-year-old world record at an indoor meet in Donetsk, Ukraine.

The timing could have been better for the French pole vaulter Renaud Lavillenie.

If you are going to break one of the great records in sports, it is probably best not to break it when much of the sports world is preoccupied with the Winter Olympics.

France has been closely following the exploits of its biathlete Martin Fourcade, the winner of two gold medals so far in Sochi. But Lavillenie stole the spotlight Saturday night by breaking Sergei Bubka's nearly 21-year-old world record at an indoor meet in Donetsk, Ukraine, with Bubka watching and applauding from the stands.

Lavillenie, 27, did it by clearing 6.16 meters (20 feet 2.5 inches) without so much as grazing the bar on his first attempt, his eyes and mouth wide with the implications of it all even before he had gotten all his limbs over the horizontal bar.

"It's going to take me some time to come back down," Lavillenie said in French in an interview with BFM TV. "It was a world record that was so mythical. To do it on the first attempt, without touching, all you can do is just savor it."

Bubka's world records of 6.14 meters outdoors and 6.15 meters indoors, the latter set in Donetsk on Feb. 21, 1993, had long been considered impregnable. A Ukrainian who spent much of his career representing the Soviet Union, Bubka was ahead of and above his time.

He largely dominated the pole vault for a decade, from the early 1980s to the early 1990s, and he set 18 world records indoors and 17 outdoors, usually in one-centimeter increments to maximize his earning power and increase the number of world-record bonuses he was able to collect.

No one had seriously challenged him until Saturday; Bubka had the best six indoor marks in history. (He still has the best nine marks outdoors.) Lavillenie, the 2012 Olympic champion, gradually transformed himself into a threat, clearing 6 meters indoors and outdoors. Still, few could have imagined he would strike so quickly.

In December, the French sports daily L'Equipe published a holiday "dream" edition in which it reported on imaginary sports stories as if they were fact. …

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