Like many in his sport, the French Olympic pole vault champion still feels inspired watching Sergey Bubka. But Lavillenie thinks that the Ukrainian world record holder could have gone even higher…
Sixth sense: Sergey Bubka wins another world title in Athens
“My first memory of watching him was jumping one of his many world records. I was so impressed. He was such a good vaulter because of his technique, his physical strength and also his mental strength. All of these factors made him the best vaulter the world has ever seen.
"I never saw Sergey jump live but one outstanding memory for me was watching him clear 6.01m to win the 1997 World Championships [Lavillenie was 10 years old and Bubka was 33]. A huge clearance.
"I first met Sergey at the 2008 World Indoor Championships. I was very impressed with his body. Physically he looked very strong, almost stronger than when he competed.
"Since then I’ve met with him many times. It is always an honour to spend time to chat with him. Today I still spend many hours watching his technique on video. It is still an inspiration and a motivation for me.
On the up: Lavillenie adds Olympic gold to his world indoor title
"There is one question, though, that I would like to ask Sergey. Why did he not clear a higher height than his world outdoor record of 6.14m? [Bubka’s indoor world record is 6.15m]. Because I’m sure, had he not decided for much of his career to improve the world record by one centimetre at a time, he could have jumped over 6.20m.”