Armand Duplantis biography
Armand "Mondo" Duplantis, born in Louisiana in 1999, has long been pegged as the one to watch in men's pole vaulting. But few, even among the most avid track and field followers, would have expected his rise to culminate in him breaking the world record so quickly.
Born to an American pole vaulter father and Swedish long jumper mother, Duplantis opted to compete internationally for his mother's home country. In 2015, still four months shy of his 16th birthday, he won the world under-18 title; barely two years later he had already broken the under-20 world record with a clearance of 5.90m, attracting the attention of the great Sergey Bubka.
But it was another man, Renaud Lavillenie, who was Duplantis' idol growing up after they first met in 2013. "I loved the way he pole vaulted. I kind of always wanted to jump like him," Duplantis said in 2017. That winter, he went to Clermont-Ferrand to train with the French Olympic champion for a few days.
The titles continued to follow, including European Championships gold in 2018. At that event, he cleared 6.05 metres – good enough to rank him as the fifth-best vaulter of all time. Duplantis chose to attend the Louisiana State University, but gave college up after a year to focus on his burgeoning professional athletics career. A year later at the 2019 Worlds in Doha, the Swede ended up with silver after a battle against American Sam Kendricks. But nothing quite prepared Duplantis' rivals or the world for what was to follow in early 2020.
Long before competitions around the world were halted by a global pandemic, Duplantis was beginning his season on the World Athletics Indoor Tour. After barely missing out at the season-opening event in Germany, the circuit rattled on to Poland where Duplantis was in scintillating form. He easily cleared three lower heights before brushing the bar on his first attempt at 6.17m. His second shot at the height, however, was good, replacing his friend and idol Lavillenie as the standard-bearer for men's pole vaulting. A week later, he added another centimetre to that height, ushering in fresh comparisons to Bubka, who broke the record 17 times.
Back in 2017, Duplantis confidently said: "The goal right now, talking about the (Tokyo) Olympics, would be to win gold, I guess. Why not?" Now, gold is not the only goal. The question now is, how high can Duplantis go?