Athletics: Duplantis, the little genius of the pole vault

The European Championships in Berlin saw the emergence of two real phenomena. The Norwegian Jakob Ingebrigtsen, titled over 1,500 m (after his brothers Henrik in Helsinki in 2012 and Filip in Amsterdam, in 2016) at only 17 years old. And above all Armand Duplantis, who at 18 years old cleared 6.05 m to win the pole vault competition.

French origins

His surname sounds like France and for good reason, some of his distant ancestors lived in Moulins, in Allier. If Duplantis has two passports, neither, unfortunately, is French. He was born in Louisiana, to an American father (Greg, a former pole vaulter who cleared 5.80 m, who became his coach) and a Swedish mother (Héléna, a former heptathlete and volleyball player, who today takes care of of his physical preparation). With the family spending all their holidays in Sweden, Armand Duplantis (Zlatan Ibrahimovic fan) – who everyone calls “Mondo” – has, in 2015, chosen to represent his mother’s country.

The tricolor perch as a model

The gifted little boy, who hesitated to opt for baseball (like his brother, Antoine, who plays in MLB) readily cites Pierre Quinon and Thierry Vigneron as models. For a long time, he also had a poster of Renaud Lavillenie in his room, in Lafayette, Louisiana. “From the time when he passed 6.01 for the first time,” specifies the Swede.

Lavillenie took him under his wing

The pole vaulter, 13 years his senior, was the first to congratulate him when he cleared 6.05 m in Berlin. “I consider him my brother,” underlines Lavillenie who in the spring welcomed “Mondo” to his home in Clermont-Ferrand. The two featherweight pole vaulters (70 kg each), who regularly exchange messages, have both installed a pole vault mat in their garden.

Very close to the young Swedish prodigy Armand Duplantis, Renaud Lavillenie even considers him “like a brother”./AFP/Andrej ISAKOVIC AFP

An early champion

To put Armand Duplantis’ performance into perspective, we must understand that to date, only 6 pole vaulters in the world have cleared 6.05 m in their career. In addition to the fact that he is the youngest in history (he is still a junior and has therefore just established the new world record in the category) to pass this milestone, the Swede achieved this performance outdoors. Only Bubka (6.14 m in the open air) did better.


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