We have the impression of seeing him soar for years far above the competition that we forget that he is only 22 years old. Armand Duplantis was European champion, Olympic champion, indoor world champion. The Swede is now also the outdoor world champion after his coronation, Sunday July 24, at Hayward Field in Eugene (Oregon).
He was the only one to clear six meters, then 6.06 meters and finally 6.21 meters, a new world record – his first record dates from February 8, 2020 (6.17 meters). He crushed the competition: the American Christopher Nilsen (2e5.94 m) and the Filipino Ernest John Obiena (3rd, 5.94 m).
His predecessor Renaud Lavillenie, ex-world record holder, passed within a breath of a bronze medal. His first attempt at 5.94 meters – the medal-winning height – was almost the right one, the bar seeming to hesitate, bouncing and finally falling.
The Frenchman had improved on his best performance of the season, crossing 5.87 meters against 5.83 meters at the end of June. He finishes fifth. In six world finals disputed, this is the first time that he has not won a medal. At the Doha Worlds in 2019, he was eliminated in qualifying. And in the Olympic final in Tokyo in the summer of 2021, a warm-up injury prevented him from doing better than 8th.
A champion’s course
Armand Duplantis – born in Louisiana to an American father and a Scandinavian mother, both former top athletes – imposed himself without trembling. His insolent ease hides the difficulty of his complex discipline, almost like child’s play when we see him rushing down the runway, gaining momentum by resisting the shock of the impact and flying like a spring hand truck. The bars disappear without putting up the slightest resistance.
The little ” devil “ grew up a pole in his hand in his garden in Lafayette. His father Greg – record at 5.80 meters – has always trained him. His older brother, Andreas, also jumped. “I opened the tube, there was this new smell, they are then perfect, without any scratches, always my favorite Christmas present! »confided “Mondo” to Agence France-Presse before the last meeting in Stockholm.
On this occasion, the insatiable local darling had achieved the best performance of the year and the best performance in history outdoors: a bar at 6.16 meters. In 2022, Duplantis broke three world records, two this winter before the one in Oregon. On March 7, he passed 6.19 meters during a rally in Belgrade. Two weeks later, again in the Serbian capital but during the indoor world championships, he raised the world record to a symbolic bar, 6.20 meters.
“It’s another level”
Before jumping into the final at these Worlds, in the absence of the American Sam Kendricks who had beaten him during the last edition in Doha in 2019, Armand Duplantis displayed his sense of priorities, the prize list before yet another record. “The most important thing for me here is gold. If I can jump high, so much the better. It would be nice. But the most important thing is to win.”, he confided. He reconciled the two objectives.
“He is solid yes [rires], it’s another level. Even if I was at my best potential, to compete with him it would be hypercomplicatedunderlined Renaud Lavillenie, admiring the prodigy. What he’s doing is a pole vault demonstration. He is unfazed. It’s a chance to have an athlete like that, who conveys a lot of positive images of our sport. »
Before he beat his senior world records but when he was already European champion and junior world record holder, Armand Duplantis scoured the university meetings of the NCAA championship. Under the banner of LSU (Lousiana State University), he crossed world-class bars with general indifference. “To be a real star in the United States, you have to go there and you pass behind Kobe Bryant, Tiger Woods or LeBron James”relativizes Lavillenie.
“Armand does not pole vault to be known. He wants to win titles and break records. He’s still the little guy he used to beasserts the former world record holder. In terms of pure performance, he has nothing to envy to what Usain Bolt did. But it’s 100m and it’s oversold compared to the rest. »
Its trajectory is upward and we do not know its limits. Some evoke 6.25 meters, others 6.30 meters. How many Olympic and world titles will he be able to win? The six world gold medals of the czar of the pole, Sergei Bubka, seem within his reach. Just like the record of two Olympic gold medals of the “flying pastor”, the American Bob Richards (1948 and 1956).