Lavillenie cruises into final, heptathlon battle continues

Katarina Johnson-Thompson of Britain competes in the javelin throw of the women's heptathlon of the 2018 European Championships at the Olympic Stadium, Berlin, Germany on Friday. — Reuters

BERLIN — World record holder Renaud Lavillenie advanced smoothly to the final of the pole vault at the European championships on Friday, needing just two successful attempt to progress.

The Frenchman is a three-time European outdoor champion, but no marked in Amsterdam two years ago, something for which he is keen to atone.

He vaulted clear at his entry mark of 5.51m and then again at 5.61, which was sufficient to advance to the 12-man final.

Lavillenie's main rivals in his bid for a fourth contintental title will likely be Sweden's Armand Duplantis, Polish pair Pawel Wojciechowski and Piotr Lisek, and Timur Morgunov, the Russian competing under a neutral flag because his country remains banned over a state-sponsored doping program.

To the anguish of the home crowd, Raphael Holzdeppe did not make the cut for Sunday's final, the 2013 world champion and 2015 silver medalist no marking three times at 5.51m.

"After the second attempt I knew that I would also not be able to clear the third attempt," the 28-year-old German said.

"My body did not want to. It was difficult. Before the national championships I was in such a great shape. But I injured my flexor at the national championships and I had to cure that in the last weeks.

"I simply could not get more out of my body at this qualification. This is extremely annoying. I thought about these home championships in Berlin already last year, before London.

"Now I will need some days to digest this. I hope that next year will be more like 2013 or 2015 when I was not suffering from injuries."

Belgian Nafissatou Thiam's bid to add European glory to her world and Olympic heptathlon titles will seemingly go to the wire against Britain's Katarina Johnson-Thompson.

The Briton followed up on her new heptathlon championship best of 22.88sec in Thursday's 200m by going out to 6.68m in Friday's opening long jump.

Thiam managed a second best jump of 6.60, meaning Johnson-Thompson extended her overnight lead to 113 points with the javelin and 800m to come.

Based on the duo's personal and seasonal bests, the winning margin, should they continue in this vein, will be extremely tight. — AFP