March 05, 2015

PRAGUE (AP) A year after Renaud Lavillenie set an indoor world record in the men's pole vault, he's ready to go even higher.

The Frenchman cleared 6.16 meters to take Sergei Bubka's 21-year-old mark and secured victories in the Diamond Race and at the European Championships in 2014. The Olympic champion will be seeking a fourth straight title at the European Indoor Championships this weekend after triumphs in 2009, '11 and `13.

''The main goal for the championship is to take the gold, to take the win,'' Lavillenie said Thursday. ''I see that I'm in good shape, the same as the last year when I broke the world record. We just have to wait for Saturday's night what could happen, we will see.''

The 28-year-old Lavillenie has been unchallenged this year, clearing a world-leading 6.02 meters.

''The good thing for the indoor is the condition on every time is the same, so I can stay focused on my jumps and try to do my best,'' the Frenchman said. ''The only thing is because it's a world record it's not easy to make it every time.''

The 33rd edition of the continental championships, with a record number of 643 athletes, opened Thursday in Prague with qualifying in the men's and women's shot put and the men's long jump. The championships run through Sunday.

In the highly anticipated women's 60 meters, Dutch sprinter Dafne Schippers will be aiming to win her first indoor title following two gold medals at last year's European Championships in Zurich.

Schippers has been fastest in Europe this year with a best of 7.09 seconds.

Dina Asher-Smith of Britain and Verena Sailer of Germany, who both clocked 7.12 in 2015, are expected to be Schippers' main challengers.

In other women's events, Jenny Meadows of Britain has the world's leading time of 1:59.21 in the 800, while teammate Katarina Johnson-Thompson is expected to be a threat for Yana Maksimava of Belarus in the pentathlon.

Women's 400-meter hurdles world champion Zuzana Hejnova of the Czech Republic has announced a comeback in Prague following a long term injury. For a start, it will be in the unusual 800 meters.

''My speed isn't so good as two years ago so I decided to try a longer distance,'' Hejnova said. ''My coach thinks it's better for the preparation for the summer season.''

In the men's 400, defending champion Pavel Maslak of the Czech Republic is the one to beat, while world and European champion David Storl of Germany is in form in the men's shot put with a season's-best throw of 21.26.

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