Duplantis plays ‘free chips’ to set new world pole vault record

BELGRADE, Serbia, Mar 20Sweden’s Mondo Duplantis held his nerve to better his world pole vault record at the World Indoor Championships in Belgrade on Sunday.

Duplantis went clear at 6.20 metres on the third time of asking in raucous conditions at the Stark Arena to improve by 1cm his previous best set two weeks ago in the same Serbian venue.

The Swede joined the competition with the bar at 5.60m, going on to pass four times as rivals fell by the wayside.

Duplantis saw American Chris Nilsen fail at 5.95m and Brazil’s Rio Olympic champion Thiago Braz at 6.05m.

With gold secured, the bar was immediately raised to 6.20m, but Duplantis failed in his first two attempts in chaotic, noisy scenes as the 4x400m relays were held on the track.

After they had finished, the Swede took a deep breath and shot down the bright blue runway, the crowd exploding as he sailed over the bar.

“It’s one of these situations that you don’t know what’s happening until the moment’s passed,” said the 22-year-old Swedish Olympic champion who had warned when he cleared 6.19m in an almost empty arena on March 7 that he had more in the tank.

“I was so focused on getting the gold medal. And then when it’s time to jump at 6.20m, it’s a bonus. I’m playing with free chips at that point.”

Duplantis said he wanted to continue to “push barriers”.

“I want to be a guy jumping high in big meets,” he said. “It’s super surreal. I’m just grateful for my position and try not to take it for granted.

“I’m in a position where I’ve jumped 6 metres enough to realise it’s possible (to go for record jumps) on any given day.

“But I know I’m not going to break the record every day, I just go out there and try to jump as high as I can. I have a good grasp of what I need to be at the top of the top.”

It was Duplantis’ first record in the presence of his father and coach Greg, saying it was “extra special he was there to witness it”.

– Motivating presence –

(L/R): Brazil’s Thiago Braz, Sweden’s Armand Duplantis and US athlete Christopher Nilsen © AFP / pedja milosavljevic

“It’s very special to compete with him, he’s always pushing high bars and it’s motivating,” said silver medallist Braz.

Nilsen added: “Mondo kind of steals the show when jumping the world record.

“If you can see that some human being can do it like Mondo, it just gives you the confidence that maybe I can do it too.”

Duplantis has held the world record since February 2020, when he cleared 6.17m in Torun in Poland and then 6.18m in Glasgow a week apart.

At times he seems able to raise the record one centimetre at a time, like the Soviet and Ukrainian great Sergey Bubka, who, in the days when outdoors and indoors were considered separate, broke the outdoor world record 17 times and set indoor bests 18 times between 1984 and 1994.

World Athletics has done away with the distinction between indoors or outdoors in pole vault records.

Duplantis, nicknamed “Mondo”, was born and raised in Lafayette, Louisiana, but competes for Sweden through his mother, who trains him with his father.

He became European champion in 2018 in Berlin at only 18, and took the Olympic title last summer in Tokyo with a jump at 6.02m.

The world indoor title was one of the two missing from his record, along with that of the world outdoors.

“I’m still missing one title, that world outdoor title, and that’s the focus now,” Duplantis said in reference to the worlds in July in Eugene, Oregon.

Nilsen, however, said he was hoping for some proper American support.

“When I saw the long jump competition here today when the crowds went crazy for the home competitor (Ivana Vuleta), I am just looking forward to the similar atmosphere in Oregon,” he said.

“Mondo’s not going to let up on the gas any time soon, so I’m going to have to get better.”

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