Sam Kendricks in action at the Continental Cup in Ostrava (© Getty Images)
Rising 21-year-old pole vault talent Timur Morgunov may have won European silver in a personal best of 6.00m and overall IAAF Diamond League victory in the space of the last month, but on this occasion the authorised neutral athlete had to give best to the older hands.
Sam Kendricks and Renaud Lavillenie took first and second position respectively with clearances of 5.85m and 5.80m.
The 31-year-old French world record holder boxed clever here as he so often has in the past, not entering the competition until the bar stood at 5.65m, by which time there were only three others in contention – Kendricks, who won the world title for the United States last year, Canada’s 2015 world champion Shawnacy Barber and Morgunov.
By that stage, the latter two had already incurred a foul each, and while both cleared, they were to go no higher.
So then there were two. Lavillenie gambled again by passing on 5.75m which Kendricks cleared at the second attempt. When both men cleared 5.80m, it was advantage France.
But Lavillenie could do no more, even though his competitiveness meant he passed from 5.85m to 5.90m after a first failure had been followed by Kendricks’s first time success.
The Frenchman was going down fighting – but he couldn’t make either of his two remaining attempts at 5.90m tell.
Barber finished third with 5.65m, giving team victory to the Americas, with Morgunov fourth on countback.
“I loved representing the Americas here because the weight is not only on my shoulders,” said Kendricks. “From 2017 when I became world champion I always have to defend something and every time I end second, people take it as a fail.
“I finally won myself today. It is really hard to travel across the world and be a world champion everywhere.”
Team Asia-Pacific’s chances of success in this event had disappeared when their Commonwealth champion, 21-year-old Kurtis Marschall, injured his leg while contesting the IAAF Diamond League final in Brussels.
Their only representative, Stephen Clough, finished fifth out of the field of seven with 5.10m.
Mike Rowbottom for the IAAF