Big season ahead for pole-vault record-holder Lavillenie
This year, Renaud Lavillenie wants to be the Diamond League's top pole-vaulter for a sixth straight season, break his own world record, claim a first world title, and hopefully leave enough free time to go motorcycle racing.
''I think it will be a good season,'' the 2014 IAAF athlete of the year said Tuesday. ''I hope so.''
It's a big year for the Frenchman, maybe even as big as the last one, when he bettered the great Sergei Bubka's 20-year-old world record and was crowned the world's best track and field athlete.
''I think this year I can definitely jump as high as I did last year. Maybe (I) can do something better,'' Lavillenie said. He wants to ''make some records'' again in 2015, he said.
The 28-year-old Lavillenie was speaking on a conference call with reporters ahead of the start of the Diamond League season in Doha next month.
He's coming off a rare loss, too. But the failure at last weekend's Drake Relays, when weather forced the pole-vault competition to be switched indoors, hasn't dampened Lavillenie's mood.
Why would it?
The world record-holder, Olympic champion and European title-holder - indoors and outdoors - is currently way ahead of his rivals. In fact, there aren't many challengers out there for pole vault's undisputed No. 1. There haven't been for the last five seasons, with Lavillenie crowned the Diamond League's top pole-vaulter every year since the series began in 2010, the only athlete in any event to do that.
The lack of consistent rivals doesn't present a motivation problem for him, he said. He's a self-motivator.
''The fact is I am able to jump really high alone or if I'm in competition with another guy,'' he said. ''So, for me, it's not a problem. If good pole-vaulters are coming, it will be great for our sport ... But it's not a problem for me because I don't need this kind of motivation to stay at that level.''
Pole-vault hasn't seen this kind of dominance since the days of Bubka, whose longstanding record was broken by Lavillenie in February last year. That vault of 6.16 meters - in Bubka's home country of Ukraine - sent Lavillenie on a remarkable run where he has now won 35 of his 37 competitions since the start of 2014.
World championship gold is the only major title missing, leaving the worlds in Beijing in August as his biggest goal of 2015.
''But I can't say it's the only goal,'' Lavillenie said.
Lavillenie has the year mapped out: He also wants to break the meet record of 5.82 meters in Doha next month to warm up, then beat his outdoor personal best of 6.02, and ensure he's in the right place ahead of the defense of his Olympic title next year in Rio de Janeiro.
''The year before (the Olympics) is really important because it is the year that you can see if everything is ready,'' he said.
And then there's finding time for Lavillenie's favorite hobby of racing motorbikes around a track, which he said he does a couple of times a year for ''the adrenaline and the speed,'' but does ''very safely.''
''Pole vault is my priority, of course,'' he said.
Gerald Imray is on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GeraldImrayAP