Renaud Lavillenie goes all-in for Olympic gold

The history of the Olympic Games is full of dramatic, emotional and beautiful moments that took place in finals. Every week, relive the most incredible finals you can remember on video. This week, we look at the breathtaking London 2012 pole vault final.

Picture by 2012 Getty Images

The deets

  • Men's pole vault final. London 2012 Olympic Games
  • Olympic Stadium, 10 August 2012

The background

In 2008, French pole vaulter Renaud Lavillenie failed to qualify for the Olympic Games Beijing 2008 by 45cm.

It was at that exact moment in time that the 1.77m athlete began to rise.

The following year, he broke the 6m mark for the first time, with a 6.01m jump. During the same year, he also achieved his first podium finish with a 5.80m jump at the 2009 World Athletics Championships in Berlin.

He had officially launched his career.

By the time Lavillenie stepped into the Olympic Stadium at London 2012, he had won two European titles (2010 and 2012) but winning in London would not be easy. Reigning Olympic champion Steve Hooker of Australia and the 2007 world champion Brad Walker of the USA were also gunning for gold, alongside two world-class jumpers from Germany.

Key moment

During the early stages of the final, Hooker and Walker bowed out of the competition, with both failing in their three attempts at 5.65m.

Did this mean Lavillenie had have a direct path to gold? Far from it. The competition turned out to be far more exciting than expected.

Three jumpers remained when the bar was raised above 5.85m: Lavillenie and two German athletes, Björn Otto and Raphael Holzdeppe - the 2012 European silver and bronze medallists.

Another competition was just beginning.

The bar was moved to 5.91m and both German athletes cleared the mark at the first attempt. Lavillenie, on the other hand, failed with his first try.

He had the choice to attempt the same height with his next two jumps. But with bronze already secured, he went all-in, raising the bar to 5.97 in his bid to win gold.

All three jumpers failed on their first attempts, but with his second jump Lavillenie cleared the bar, setting a new Olympic record in the process.

Lavillenie took a risk, and it paid off. Neither of the German athletes could match his achievement.

The French athlete's dream had come true.

The outcome

Lavillenie became just the third French Olympic pole vault champion after Pierre Quinon (1984) and Jean Galfione (1996).

He eventually broke the world record set by the great Sergey Bubka of Ukraine, the Seoul 1988 Olympic champion, clearing 6.16m in Bubka’s homeland and in front of his predecessor who was watching on.

Four years later at Rio 2016, Lavellenie failed in his quest to win a second gold and finished second behind Brazilian Thiago Braz.

In 2020, Lavillenie’s world record was beaten by the 20-year-old Swede Armand Duplantis, a close friend of his.

Now the French star has his sights set on Tokyo 2020.

Lavillenie admits that his best years are behind him, but in an interview with Tokyo 2020, he still believes he can "surprise [himself] by being able to still jump big and with a high level of intensity."