Pole vault: Duplantis, so young and already so high

[Mise à jour : Duplantis a franchi les 6,18 m le samedi 15 février à Glasgow]

Renaud Lavillenie is no longer a record holder in the world of pole vault. The French athletics star, who had the best world performance of all time since February 2014, when he jumped 6.16 m in Donetsk under the eyes of former record holder Sergei Bubka, passes his hand to the star rising specialty: Armand Duplantis, 20 years old. The latter, although born and raised in the United States (in Lafayette, Louisiana), competes under the colors of Sweden, his mother’s country. Duplantis, nicknamed “Mondo” in the narrow circle of athletics, passed the 6.18m mark in Glasgow on Saturday. He had already crossed the 6.17 m barrier at the indoor meeting in Torun, Poland, a week earlier. The performance of the young man with “normal” physique – 68 kilos for 1.81 m – is not really a surprise. Tuesday, in a meeting in Germany, he attacked the Lavillenie record and failed by nothing.

In the garden of the house

Armand Duplantis presents the typical CV of the prodigy of his discipline, to which he was initiated by his father and coach since his earliest childhood. He indeed started to panic the counters of the specialty at 10 years old. The son of Greg Duplantis and Helena Hedlund, a former volleyball player and heptathlete, and now her fitness trainer, began his jumping career in the garden of the family home. At 10, he crossed 3.86m, the world record for this age category. Passionate about the specialty are beginning to scrutinize the gestures of the child acrobat on YouTube. The father himself is a former American pole vaulter, capable of jumping 5.80m from the top of his 1.68m. It is perhaps thanks to the size of his father that the son drew his greatest strength: technique. When you don’t have a Superman physique, you have to bet everything on it, essential on the acrobatic part and speed. Qualities probably worked to nausea by Greg Duplantis and his son.

Duplantis displays perfect mastery of the different parts of which a pole vault consists. For the average viewer, this very complex exercise may seem easy and almost natural: but it is the mark of the virtuoso to give this impression. From this point of view, Duplantis has a lot in common with Renaud Lavillenie, his young idol, with whom he shared a few jumping sessions and long discussions about their sport.

Provider, athlete, tightrope walker

Just watch his jumps, for example at the European Championships in Berlin in August 2018, where at just 18 years old (still a junior then), he won one of the most distinguished contests in the history of this championship. At an Olympic stadium in Berlin, during an interminable summer evening, Duplantis had to pull from his hat of conjurer-athlete-tightrope walker a jump to 6.05 m, while the final seemed to end at 5.95 m. This measurement represented at the time his personal best and also the junior world record. Second place was for the young Russian Timur Morgunov (6.00 m), meteor of the discipline, while the bronze medal went to an always combative Renaud Lavillenie at the beautiful altitude of 5.95 m, which in most old editions would have given right to the highest step of the podium.

At the world championships in Doha, at the beginning of October 2019, Duplantis wins “only” the money behind another ace in the discipline, the American Sam Kendricks, in a competition not frankly high-flying: 5.97 m for Kendricks and Duplantis , the American winning the number of tries at 5.92 m. In Qatar, the Swede had appeared a bit sprained, perhaps because of the string of meetings which had made up his season. Saturday in Torun, on the second attempt at 6.17 m, Duplantis agreed with all of their opponents: he is now the boss of the discipline.

Luca Endrizzi

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