Naked pole vaulter seeks sponsor

PARIS, France -- A French pole vaulting champion ran naked with his pole through the streets of Paris and
posted the video on the Internet, hoping to draw attention to
his quest for a new sponsorship deal.

Romain Mesnil, who won a silver medal at the 2007 Athletics
World Championships in Osaka, was sponsored by Nike but says his contract expired last year and
was not renewed.

"It was probably for budgetary and strategic reasons. It's
the crisis," he wrote on his Web site.

Many athletes have reported difficulties obtaining corporate
sponsorship as companies cut costs because of the global
economic downturn.

In his video, Mesnil runs with his pole as if preparing for
a vault at tourist spots like Montmartre and the Pont des Arts
across the River Seine. A black square has been added to the
footage to cover his groin area.

The video has succeeded in drawing attention to Mesnil's
plight, at least in France. It was broadcast on prime-time state
television news bulletins.