Mondo Goes On A World Record Tear

Mondo Duplantis was predictably animated after claiming his first World Record. (JEAN-PIERRE DURAND)

VAULT FANS have long thought that it was just a matter of time before wunderkind Mondo Duplantis ascended to status as World Record holder. That time came—twice in fact—in February as he became history’s highest vaulter, Indoors or out. Here’s a look at his 5-meet indoor season, which included nothing but 6-meter material:

Joining The Indoor 6-Meter Club

Duplantis brought the heat to his season opener in Düsseldorf (February 04). The 20-year-old World silver medalist sailed through 6 heights culminating in a Swedish Record 19-6¼ (5.95), with just one miss along the way. He left arch-rival Sam Kendricks far behind, the American topping out at 19-¼ (5.80).

At 19-8¼ (6.00), Duplantis knocked the bar down on his first attempt, but on his next he produced a gigantic clearance for his first undercover 6-meter jump ever, becoming the 12th man to do so (he has 3 such meets outdoors). So good was his clearance that he had the bar hoisted all the way to 20-2¾ (6.17), a mark that would add a centimeter to the World Record set by Renaud Lavillenie in ’14. Spoiler: he didn’t make it, but his second attempt came stunningly close.

Perhaps Duplantis jinxed it by looking at the bar while he readied himself on the runway. “I try not to look at the bar, but it’s really hard because I never attempted the World Record–and I’m looking up there,” he said. “It almost brought a tear to my eye, because you’re looking at it and you think, ‘This is it, this is the World Record.’ My whole life, since I was 4 years old, I wanted to be the World Record holder. Just to be attempting it, you’re like, ‘This is a really cool moment.’ So I really enjoyed that brief second of looking up at the bar, knowing [I was] attempting the World Record.”

First A PR 19-8½, Then A WR 20-2¾

Duplantis jumped more sparingly at Poland’s Copernicus Cup (Toruń, February 08), with four clearances in four attempts before he stood on the runway staring down another WR attempt. His previous bar, 19-8½ (6.01) had given him another Swedish Record and the No. 6 position on the all-time indoor list.

He knocked the WR bar off on his first try, brushing it off with his thigh on his ascent. He was not disheartened: “After that first attempt, I thought, ‘Yeah, I just need two more attempts at this and I got it’. I was pretty confident that I had it.” He brushed it again the second time, but the bar stayed on to the roar of the crowd as Lavillenie was consigned to history. “How do you explain a dream that’s been a dream since you were 3 years old?” Mondo asked. “It’s a big dream, too. It’s not a little dream. And it’s a whole process building up to that moment. I can’t really get my head around it.”

Already a veteran of more than a decade of competition, Duplantis knows when he is on point technically. “I knew I had it in me,” he said. “I knew it was a possibility. In Düsseldorf I had a great attempt at it but you never know when you’ll be in that kind of shape again, in World Record shape again.”

So dominant was Duplantis that he won by more than 2ft, American Matt Ludwig and Swede Melker Svärd Jacobsson tieing for 2nd at 18-1¼ (5.52).

This Time It’s 20-3¼… By A Lot

After 5 leaps, 4 of them successful with consistent extra altitude, and having disposed of Kendricks, whose best on the day was 18-10¼ (5.75), Duplantis found himself face-to-face with a World Record bar in Glasgow (February 15), this time at 20-3¼ (6.18). And for the second time in a week, he soared higher on his own power than any human ever. After clearing 19-8¼ (6.00)—a British all-comers record—Duplantis had expected to wait for the women’s 400 before attempting the historic height. But a minor problem with the blocks delayed the sprint briefly, and he leaped at the opportunity.

He only needed that one go, and what a go it was, as he had massive hip height over the bar. “I felt like I was over it and once I was going over I knew I had it,” he understated. “You can’t tell how far away you are from the bar but it felt like a good jump from the get-go. I tried a stiffer pole and it worked out. Everything builds up to that little split second and the freefall was magical,” he said. “There was such great energy the crowd was giving me and I really thrive off that.”

What’s next? He cautioned, “It’s unfair to think I’ll break it every time I compete. You don’t need to break a record to win every comp. Winning is always the goal, then if I have the energy left, I’ll crank it up a bit.”

Almost 3 In A Row

The WR steak ended despite the fervent wishes of a sold-out crowd of 5000 French fans in Líevin (February 19). Still, the vault phenom delivered every bit of their money’s worth. At the premeet press conference Mondo said, “I am trying as best as I can to live in the now. Because there are so many things people are asking about what I want to do. And I know it’s really hard because people want these big things out of me and they want me to make claims about what I can do. But I don’t know what I can do. I have no clue what I can jump.”

Opening at 18-4½ (5.60), he breezed through easy first-attempt clearances of 19-¼ (5.80) and 19-4¼ (5.90) as well. Only Kendricks could match those heights, but he needed all three tries to make 19-4¼. With Mondo passing 19-6¼ (5.95), the American gave it one go and then called it a day. Rather than going directly to a new record, Duplantis opted for 19-11 (6.07) and cleared that with ease on his first try.

Then the bar went up to a record 20-3¾ (6.19), where his first attempt got the requisite height, but the crossbar fell. He also got high enough on No. 2, but the bar bounced up and off. That was as close as he would come. He bailed on his final attempt, explaining, “I did 6.07 and that was a great jump. But after that I felt my legs abandoned me a little bit and I didn’t have quite the same speed in my approach. Out of my three tries at 6.19, I think my second attempt was the closest but I think that I lost speed. I feel quite tired; Glasgow was only a few days ago.”

Oh So Close To End The Season

In the final stop on his indoor tour, Duplantis wowed a sellout crowd of 5000 at France’s vault festival, the All-Star Perche (Clermont-Ferrand, February 23). He didn’t waste any time, either, taking only three jumps, all successful, before arriving at his record height: 18-6½ (5.65), 19-3 (5.87) and 19-8½ (6.01).

Then he changed his routine, deciding to go with a stiffer pole than he used in his two previous World Records. “Make some noise!” he implored the spectators. His first two tries at 20-3¾ (6.19) weren’t close. He went back to his usual pole for his third attempt and that was close, as he had the height but brushed the bar on the way down.

“I can’t be disappointed not to break the World Record today,” he said. “When you want to break a record, your jump must be perfect. Here I had some very good vaults but I was missing a little something.”

As opposed to the two WR meets where Helen Duplantis coached her son, the last two—with no records—were guided by his father, Greg. “The results speak for themselves,” joked Mondo. “If it becomes a trend, I may fire him as my coach.”

Lavillenie, Mondo’s friend and mentor, finished 2nd at 19-5¾ (5.94) and admitted he was worried about the competition: “I gave Mondo some advice but above all I was afraid of getting beaten by 30cm. In the end it was only 7cm and frankly that feels good.” He added, “He’s only five years old! But at the moment he’s the best in the world.”

For Duplantis, however, this is just about laying the foundation for the rest of the campaign: “The Olympics is the only big goal this season.”

Nothing But 6-Meter Vaults

For vaulters, the 6-meter (19-8¼) barrier remains the event’s holy grail. Duplantis made history by topping that mark in a record 5 straight meets. That tied the record set by—surprise!—Sergey Bubka. Bubka’s ’91 string included 3 straight WRs indoors followed by an outdoor WR. Here’s Mondo’s series in each of his 5 meets:

1. Düsseldorf: 17-8½/5.40, 18-2½/5.55, 18-8¼/5.70 (2), 19‑¼/5.80, 19-4¼/5.90, 19-6¼/5.95, 19-8¼/6.00 (2), 20‑2¾/6.17 WR (xxx).
2. Toruń: 18‑1¼/5.52, 18‑9¼/5.72, 19-5/5.92, 19-8½/6.01 NR (WL—6, x W), 20-2¾/6.17 WR (2).
3. Glasgow: 18-½/5.50, 18-10¼/5.75 (2), 19-2/5.84, 19-8¼/6.00, 20-3¼/6.18 WR.
4. Liévin: 18-4½/5.60, 19-¼/5.80, 19-4¼/5.90, 19‑11/6.07, 20-3¾/6.19 WR (xxx).
5. Clermont-Ferrand: 18-6½/5.65, 19-3/5.87, 19-8½/6.01, 20-3¾/6.19 WR (xxx). ◻︎

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