WITH YAWNING DISTANCE between his yellow Swedish bodysuit and the bar on five straight clearances, Mondo Duplantis made taking gold look easy, culminating in a winning height of 19-9 (6.02).
With the Olympic title confirmed when nearest challenger Chris Nilsen could go no higher after his 19-7 (5.97) PR, Mondo then took aim at improving his WR and nearly did it.
With the bar set at 20-3¾ (6.19), he came close to clearing on his first attempt with a massive jump with a good 6 inches or more to spare only for him to touch the bar off with his chest as he descended.
He aborted his second attempt at the elevated height and although his third was another respectable effort, he took the bar down with his knees.
However, having now had no fewer than 27 attempts at this height during ’20 and ’21, Tokyo being his tenth competition when he has had a tilt at 20-3¾, there is the unmistakable impression that it is just a matter of time before he negotiates this bar.
A Louisiana native who as a youngster opted to compete for his mother’s native Sweden, Mondo cleared at the first time of asking 18-2½ (5.55), 19-½ (5.80), 19-5¼ (5.92) 19-7 (5.97) and 19-9 (6.02) before his WR attempts.
It was the manner in which he did it that had pundits with long memories suggesting he was the most convincing winner of the Olympic PV title since Poland’s Władysław Kozakiewicz famously won the ’80 gold with what was then an 18-11¾ (5.78) WR.
“It’s a surreal feeling, really, I still don’t know how to explain it,” said the delighted Duplantis. “It’s something I’ve wanted for so long and now that it’s finally here and I finally did it. It’s so crazy.
“Ever since I was a little kid, I have loved this sport so much and I have always believed that it would take me to some great places and the fact that I’m actually here, I’m at the Olympics and being able to win it is fantastic.
“The World Record would have been nice, and I felt like I was close, but it is what it is. I’m not going to sit here and complain.”
Runner-up Nilsen, the U.S. Trials winner, had his day of days and finally revised his previous PR of 19-6¾ set when he won the second of his NCAA titles for South Dakota in ’19. He claimed the highest outdoor U.S. jump of the year and moved to =No. 8 on the all-time U.S. list.
“I had a couple of good jumps at [19-9/6.02], and I was happy to walk away with that,” reflected the silver medalist, “but at the end of the day Mondo was going to do everything in his power to win that gold and I don’t think anybody was going to stop him.”
Not even 2-time reigning world champ Sam Kendricks, who was ruled out on the eve of the Games with a positive COVID test? Probably not.
Kendricks is still a world-class competitor but since he took the ’19 world crown, he has beaten his friend/rival in only 1 of their 15 encounters, the Gateshead DL meeting earlier this year, which was also the only loss in Mondo’s 29 competitions since the start of last year.
Brazil’s defending champ Thiago Braz — who still holds the OR with his 19-9½ (6.03) from Rio — claimed the bronze this time with a first-time clearance at a seasonal best 19-3¼ (5.87) and it was this bar that was to determine the medalists with 5 of the 8 men still in the competition unable to go any higher. (Continued below)
This group included first-year pro KC Lightfoot, the yearly U.S. list leader, who had been flawless up to 19-½ (5.80) and took a share of 4th with Greece’s Emmanouíl Karalís.
’12 champ and former WR holder Renaud Lavillenie was struggling with an ankle problem and cleared only his opening height of 18-8¼ (5.70) and finished 8th but was the first to embrace and congratulate Mondo, to whom he has acted as a mentor.
It was clear throughout the competition, with the interaction between the pair, how much warmth there is between the Frenchman who was the one-time king of the vault and the man who now wears that crown.
The third U.S. competitor, Matt Ludwig, was still understandably tired from his 20-hour trip to get to the Games once he got the last-minute call-up to replace Kendricks and was eliminated in the qualifying round with a clearance of 18-½ (5.50).
MEN’S POLE VAULT RESULTS
(August 03) (temperature 84–82F/29–28C; humidity 77–82%)
1. Mondo Duplantis (Swe) 19-9 (6.02);
2. Chris Nilsen (US) 19-7 (5.97) PR (outdoor AL) (=8, x A);
3. Thiago Braz (Bra) 19-3 (5.87);
4. tie, KC Lightfoot (US) & Emmanouíl Karalís (Gre) 19-¼ (5.80);
6. Piotr Lisek (Pol) 19-¼ (5.80);
7. Harry Coppell (GB) 19-¼ (5.80);
8. Renaud Lavillenie (Fra) 18-8¼ (5.70);
9. Oleg Zernikel (Ger) 18-8¼ (5.70);
10. Ersu Şaşma (Tur) 18-8¼ (5.70);
11. tie, Bo Kanda Lita Baehre (Ger) & Ernest John Obiena (Phi) 18-8¼ (5.70);
13. Menno Vloon (Neth) 18-2½ (5.55);
… nh—Kurtis Marschall (Aus).
QUALIFYING (July 31; auto-qualifier 19-¼/5.80)
Qualifiers: Şaşma, Coppell & Zernikel cleared 18-6½/5.65, all other finalists 18-10¼/5.75 (=highest qualifier ever);
Non-qualifiers: [18-6½/5.65]—Robert Sobera (Pol), Augusto Dutra (Bra), Valentin Lavillenie (Fra), Ben Broeders (Bel) 18-6½ (5.65);
[18-½/5.50]—Matt Ludwig (US), Min-Sub Jin (SK), Bokai Huang (Chn), Konstadínos Filippídis (Gre), Ethan Cormont (Fra), Sondre Guttormsen (Nor);
[17-4½/5.30]—Masaki Ejima (Jpn), Seito Yamamoto (Jpn), Torben Blech (Ger), Paweł Wojciechowski (Pol);
… nh—Claudio Michel Stecchi (Ita). ◻︎