The world records are not enough for Mondo Duplantis



Fresh from recording the highest outdoor pole vault clearance in history at the Wanda Diamond League meeting in Rome last night, the 20-year-old mapped out his plan for total world domination over the coming years.


“There are a lot of medals yet for me to win and there are a lot of things for me to do in the championship meets,” he said.


“If you want to be remembered as the best ever, you have to get it right when the moment is right and when you really need to. I like to think of myself as a big-time performer and I can get it done when it counts but you have to go out there and prove that.


“So when it comes time for the Olympics, World Championships, even the next European Championships, I will go there and get it done and try to be on top of the podium, because you can jump as high as you want but if you can’t do it when it counts…’’


None of that plan will come as a surprise to his closest rival, two-time world champion Sam Kendricks, who did not compete in Rome but noted recently: “We saw him coming”.


At every age since his father began teaching him when he was still a toddler, Duplantis has been a pole vaulting phenomenon, in the vein of golfing great Tiger Woods.


He is not only undefeated since taking the silver medal behind Kendricks at the World Championships in Doha last October, he has barely been challenged. But he said this week that he never took winning for granted.


That it was always his first priority when he entered the arena.


He has one more competition to come this year – the final Diamond League meeting in Doha on September 25 – but he has already blazed across the athletics firmament this year.


In February, he set world records of 6.17m and 6.18m on the World Athletics Indoor Tour, the highest anyone had ever jumped in any venue, indoors or outdoors.


But he was not content with that because he still didn’t have the highest outdoor jump. That remained the domain of Sergey Bubka, whose 6.14m monument from 1994 had stood unattainable for 26 years.


But Duplantis has made his intentions for that clear from the opening Diamond League meeting in Monaco little more than a month ago in this shortened outdoor season. He has attacked the benchmark relentlessly over the last month, taking 13 attempts at 6.15m across five different competitions before he arrived in Rome this week.


None of those were closer than his first attempt at the Stadio Olimpico last night, when he was over the bar but dislodged it with his chest as he began his descent.


However that gave him confidence that this would be his night.


In the absence of his parents Greg and Helena, who have coached him since he was a small child, he turned to his big brother on the circuit, former world record-holder Renaud Lavillenie as his ‘replacement coach’.


Duplantis asked if he should move his run-up in slightly to get more penetration on his vault, but Lavillenie, a supreme technician, advised that he just needed to put a little more force into the pole at the moment he planted it.


On his 15th attempt at the historic height, he got everything right and soared over the bar before celebrating in the freefall back to the earth.


“I hit the mat but I haven’t really fallen back to earth,” a delighted Duplantis said afterwards.


“I think I’m still up in the clouds right now. It’s just one of those feelings where you are kind of dreaming a little bit… It’s surreal, it’s surreal, it’s a super-crazy feeling when everything lines up like that and you do a really good performance.”


His only regret was that neither of his parents were there to see it live.


“Usually one of them is with me (so) I am a bit disappointed about that,” he said. “My dad has never been with me when I jumped a world record.”


Given his son’s youth and extraordinary ability, Greg Duplantis is likely to have plenty more opportunities.


It’s a shame that so few people witnessed this performance live, after the local authorities ruled that the meeting organisers could not admit spectators to the cavernous Stadio Olimpico. But that is the new normal in this pandemic year and it didn’t impede Duplantis at all.


Nicole Jeffery for World Athletics

Armand Duplantis
Born: 10 November 1999. Coaches: Greg and Helena Duplantis

The third son of former pole vaulter Greg Duplantis and former heptathlete Helena (née Hedlund), Armand 'Mondo' Duplantis was born into an athletic family. His older brothers Andreas and Antoine were introduced to pole vault at an early age; Andreas went on to represent Sweden, their mother’s country of birth, at various age-group championships, while Antoine dropped pole vault in favour of baseball.

Armand, however, showed the most promise and set numerous age-group records from as young as the age of seven. He scaled four metres for the first time at age 13 and had progressed to five metres just two years later.

During that same year, he made his international championships debut at the World U18 Championships Cali 2015 and came away with the gold medal. He followed it with a bronze medal at the World U20 Championships Bydgoszcz 2016, where he was the youngest in the field, and came back even stronger in 2017.

He scaled a world U20 record of 5.75m during the indoor season and improved the mark to 5.90m outdoors, also breaking the senior Swedish record in the process. He went on to win the European U20 title before reaching the final at the World Championships London 2017, placing ninth.

His momentum continued in 2018. He finished seventh at the World Indoor Championships Birmingham 2018, then went over heights of 5.92m and 5.93m in his first few competitions of the outdoor season. He became a regular on the Diamond League circuit and won in front of a home crowd in Stockholm. In other competitions, he beat the likes of world record-holder Renaud Lavillenie and world champion Sam Kendricks.

He went into the European Championships as one of the medal favourites, having won the world U20 title in Tampere, but few would have predicted he would win – and so convincingly. The 18-year-old popped over 6.00m on his first attempt, becoming the youngest six-metre vaulter in history, and then went on to scale 6.05m, a world U20 record.

Duplantis enrolled at Louisiana State University and had full collegiate indoor and outdoor seasons in 2019. He turned professional half way through the year and went on to notch up victories and big vaults on the international circuit. He closed out his season at the World Athletics Championships Doha 2019, where he took the silver medal with 5.97m.

With no collegiate competition commitments to contend with, a rejuvenated Duplantis started his 2020 campaign with a bang, clearing 6.00m in his first competition of the year at the World Athletics Indoor Tour meeting in Dusseldorf. That was just a taster of what was to come, though, as four days later he cleared a world record of 6.17m in Torun.

He still wasn’t finished, though. At the World Athletics Indoor Tour meeting in Glasgow one week later, Duplantis stunned the athletics world again, improving his world record mark to 6.18m.

The Covid-19 pandemic disrupted the early part of his outdoor season, but by the time of the Wanda Diamond League meeting in Monaco in August, Duplantis was once again in full flow, winning with 6.00m. He continued his winning streak with six-metre vaults at the Diamond League meetings in Stockholm, Lausanne and Brussels.

At each of those meetings, he had attempted 6.15m – what would be the highest ever outdoor vault – but was unsuccessful each time. At the Golden Gala in Rome, however, it finally clicked and he got over 6.15m on his second try.

Aged just 20, Duplantis is already the highest vaulter in history, indoors and outdoors.



Duplantis's progression
Age 6: 1.67m
Age 7: 2.33m*
Age 8: 2.89m*
Age 9: 3.20m*
Age 10: 3.86m*
Age 11: 3.91m*
Age 12: 3.97m(i)*
Age 13: 4.15m
Age 14: 4.75m(i)
Age 15: 5.30m
Age 16: 5.51m
Age 17: 5.90m*
Age 18: 6.05m*
Age 19: 6.00m
Age 20: 6.18m(i)* WR / 6.15m
* = world age best

Highest vaults in history, indoors and outdoors
1 6.18i Armand Duplantis (SWE) Glasgow 2020
6.17i Armand Duplantis (SWE) Torun 2020
6.15 Armand Duplantis (SWE) Rome 2020
2 6.16i Renaud Lavillenie (FRA) Donetsk 2014
3 6.15i Sergey Bubka (UKR) Donetsk 1993
6.14i Sergey Bubka (UKR) Lievin 1993
6.14 Sergey Bubka (UKR) Sestriere 1994
6.13i Sergey Bubka (UKR) Berlin 1992
6.13 Sergey Bubka (UKR) Tokyo 1992
6.12i Sergey Bubka (UKR) Grenoble 1991
6.12 Sergey Bubka (UKR) Padua 1992
6.11i Sergey Bubka (UKR) Donetsk 1991
6.11 Sergey Bubka (UKR) Dijon 1992
6.10i Sergey Bubka (UKR) San Sebastian 1991
6.10 Sergey Bubka (UKR) Malmo 1991

Career six-metre vaults
46 Sergey Bubka
19 Renaud Lavillenie
18 Mondo Duplantis
7 Maksim Tarasov
7 Rodion Gataullin
7 Jeff Hartwig
5 Steve Hooker
5 Sam Kendricks
Indoors and outdoors, including ancillary marks


© AFP / Getty Images