By Brian Homewood
LONDON (Reuters) - American Sam Kendricks capped his memorable, unbeaten season by wining the pole vault at the World Championships on Tuesday as the title once again eluded world record holder and former Olympic champion Renaud Lavillenie.
Kendricks, a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army reserve, cleared 5.95 metres while Poland's Piotr Lisek took the silver and Lavillenie had to be content with a fourth world bronze despite producing his best leap of the season.
Lisek, joint bronze medallist in Beijing two years ago, and Frenchman Lavillenie, who also won silver in 2013, both cleared 5.89 but the Pole took silver on countback.
Olympic champions Fabio Braz pulled out last month due to form and fitness problems.
Kendricks, unbeaten in 2017 after 10 competitions outdoors and one indoors, was again in imperious form as he moved through the first five heights without a failure.
The 24-year-old, who barely picked his pole for five months during the autumn and winter while on active duty, failed his first two attempts at 5.95 before clearing the third to a huge roar.
"It is all part of a mission for me. I make a goal and chop it down to make it attainable. I've finally got that world title and I could not be happier," Kendricks said.
"It was another fantastic competition today and I had to jump high to take the gold."
Lisek had two failures at 5.65 and another at 5.82 before deciding to move to 5.89 which he cleared at the first attempt but the next height proved a bridge too far.
Lavillenie, unable to start training until May because of a foot injury, has been short of confidence and form all season and has failed to register a win in five appearances on the Diamond League circuit.
He had one failure and skipped two rounds before reaching 5.95 metres where he was agonisingly close on his second attempt, clearing the bar but nudging it on the way down.
Lavillenie then opted to move to 6.01 where his challenge ended.
Titleholder Shawn Barber of Canada struggled all evening and never looked in contention.
He had one failure at the lowest height of 5.50 and only just avoided elimination at 5.65 which he cleared at the third attempt despite clipping the bar, before going out at 5.75.
Germany's Raphael Holzdeppe, who won the title four years ago in Moscow, fared even worse as he was eliminated in the very first round at 5.50.
Belgian's Arnaud Art made an unfortunate exit at the first height, falling on his third attempt after his hands slipped from the pole.
(Editing by Ed Osmond)