It’s almost eight o’clock in the evening at Hayward Field, and the first World Cup on American soil is about to end. Americans, so cinematographic, so fond of happy endings, watch Mondo Duplantis hold the pole and want to witness what has never been seen before. The bar is over 6.21m, one centimeter more than what the Swede reached on the indoor track in Belgrade last March. All of his rivals have already made three nulls and are out of the competition, which means that Duplantis is gold for the first time in an outdoor World Championship. But that’s only half the show.
The fireworks of the duel of man against history remain, and Duplantis, who knows that feeling and nothing impresses him anymore, a 22-year-old veteran who is pointed at by cell phones from the stands thinking about Instagram and YouTube, runs in his second chance, sticks the pole in the box, and rises in a clean flight that does not touch the bar and has a few centimeters left over. He goes down screaming. It is his fifth world record for him, the first outdoors.
Swedish athlete Armand Duplantis celebrates his gold medal and setting a new world record with a jump of 6.21 meters at the Oregon World Championships in Athletics.Robert Ghement (EFE)
The young man born and raised in Louisiana but of Swedish nationality, that of his mother, jumps euphorically, no longer with the pole in his hand, one more attribute of his body. Before attempting the record, he only failed once all afternoon, against the 5.87m. He will not jump anymore, and will receive $100,000 from the organization, the price at which records are paid. He celebrates by doing a somersault on the tartan. He not only holds the world record, but also the championship record (previously 6.05m) and the best outdoor record (previously 6.16m). In addition, he removes at a stroke the bad taste in his mouth from the 2019 Doha World Cup, when it was silver. The American Christopher Nilsen now obtains that metal with 5.94m, and the Philippine Ernest John Obienta the bronze by crashing against the same height but with more previous failures.
It is the umpteenth culmination of a lifetime looking up, planning in the loneliness of the heights. The home videos of the Duplantis of childhood are not those of birthdays surrounded by friends. At least not the best known. They are the ones that show a child rising and falling on a mat placed in his backyard, the place where he began an activity that he has naturalized as much as eating, drinking and sleeping. “I don’t remember exactly the first time I jumped. I don’t remember the first time I picked up a pole. I have always been able to pole vault”, he explains in a video about his beginnings.
That base acquired in moments of learning, when the body and brain absorb and adapt to the environment faster, gave it an advantage over the rest that has translated into such an overwhelming superiority that few can boast of it, perhaps the Venezuelan Yulimar Rojas in the triple jump or the American Sydney McLaughlin in the 400m hurdles. The latter achieved, together with Duplantis and the Nigerian Tobi Amusan in the 100m hurdles, the three records of this edition of the World Cup, the same as in Doha.
After going through a moment of doubt as a teenager, when he pondered whether he wanted to focus his athletic career on the pole vault, time has ended up proving Duplantis right. “I’m at peace with that decision now, I’m having more and more fun,” he admits. The eyes are on him, but the pressure doesn’t seem to touch him. “When I’m out there competing I feel like I’m playing in my backyard again.”
Duplantis during the world record jump in Eugene (Oregon). Etienne Laurent (EFE)
Duplantis already surpasses Ukrainian legend Sergei Bubka in jumps over six meters (48 vs. 46). And the smugness with which he jumped in Oregon says that the ceiling of him has not reached. Until where? His friend and his rival Renaud Lavillenie, fifth in Oregon, predicts 6.25m.
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