Practice English Speaking&Listening with: How Renaud Lavillenie Broke the Pole Vault Olympic Record | Olympics on the Record

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Sometimes in sport, as in life, you just have to roll the dice.

Renaud Lavillenie of France is competing in

the biggest event of his sporting life -

the men's pole vault final,

at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

And he's gambling everything on one jump.

You see, he's currently in the bronze medal position

and he's missed his last two attempts.

If he makes this one,

he'll move into the gold medal position.

If he misses, he still comes third.

An admirable achievement for most athletes.

But then, Lavillenie isn't most athletes.

To understand why a man would willingly take a risk

in a moment like this, you need to know more about

Renaud Lavillenie. Lavillenie likes risk.

He likes living on the edge.

Not many world-class athletes relax racing motorbikes,

but it works for him.

The French have a long history of excellence when it comes to

Lavillenie's favoured event.

Jean Galfione was the second Frenchman to win an Olympic

gold medal, with this jump back in 1996.

For Lavillenie, pole vault isn't just a French thing,

it's a family thing.

His father, Gilles Lavillenie, was a vaulter.

His brother Valentin also got the vaulting bug

at a young age.

They never had to have the pole vault explained to them.

But for the rest of us, here's a quick guide.

The athlete stands at the end of a 40m-long track,

carrying a long metal pole

wrapped in sheets of fibreglass.

They sprint down the track, place the tip of the pole

into the launch box.

As they jump up, the pole bends dramatically.

They attempt to pass over the horizontal bar,

releasing the pole.

They come back down to Earth onto padded matting,

to break their fall.

And then, they get up and do it all over again.

Most of us would stick to one of life's simpler pursuits,

like neurosurgery!

I always thought pole vaulting was jumping over Polish people.

No, Jan.

This was Lavillenie's life,

although at 1.77m, he was on the small side

for a successful pole vaulter.

Attempting to qualify for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing,

young Renaud missed the qualifying distance by 45cm.

He did not give up.

He doubled his efforts.

He even built a full-size pole vault track in his back garden

in Clermont-Ferrand.

Lavillenie was now targeting London 2012,

as his performances steadily improved.

In 2009, Lavillenie landed his first major title,

jumping 5.81m, to win the European Indoor Championship.

And just three months later,

he joined the pole vaulters' Six-Metre Club.

In just two years, Lavillenie had improved his personal best

by over 70cm, to become world number one.

But reputations don't win gold medals.

At the Olympic Games in London,

he was up against a heavyweight.

Defending Olympic champion, Steve Hooker of Australia,

and the USA's Brad Walker, a former world champion,

failed to mount any kind of challenge.

As others fell by the wayside, that left just three

remaining athletes to fight it out for gold -

Lavillenie and two Germans -

the youngster Raphael Holzdeppe and veteran, Bjorn Otto.

The bar was now raised to 5.91m.

Holzdeppe cleared it.

Otto cleared it.

Lavillenie didn't clear it,

which left him a choice.

With two more attempts left, he could either try them

at this height or he could raise the bar.

If he could pull out one big jump,

it would put him in sole possession

of the top spot and put the pressure on the others.

Lavillenie decided to go for it.

The bar was raised to 5.97m.

Bold, ambitious,


Which brings us back to where we started.

Lavillenie - one more shot, one more chance at glory.

Everything was riding on this one jump.

Oh, my!!

The Frenchman has done it!

A new Olympic record, at 5.97m.

That would have outjumped a T-Rex!


When Otto failed at 6.02, in his final attempt,

Lavillenie had won Olympic gold.

The two Germans were very strong,

so it pushed me to my limits.

The limits, indeed.

But that's where Lavillenie likes to be.

It's a dream. Wow.

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