Pole vault star Armand Duplantis is seen by many as the next big superstar in the world of athletics. In a field without the retired Usain Bolt, there are few male and female stars who are seen as capable of dominating the sport in the years to come and the Swede is certainly on the top of that list.
Indeed, Duplantis and Venezuela’s Yulimar Rojas were recently named the male and female World Athletes of the Year.
But Duplantis is not worried about the pressure of being called the future of athletics.
“Everyone was asking me if I could fill Usain Bolt’s shoes when I broke the world record. I do not worry about it too much as we are different people who do different events.” Duplantis told The Master’s Diary on WION.
“I go out there, try to jump high and just be genuine. I like putting on a show and everything else just works out. Our sport has a lot of great athletes in a lot of different events. Sport works that way, once someone moves on new stars step up and that is always the case. Athletics does not need to worry as there will be good results down the road,” he added.
In a season to remember, not least for the coronavirus-hit scheduling, Duplantis broke the world record in the men’s pole vault twice.
The 21-year-old cleared 6.17m and 6.18m on back-to-back weekends in February, just weeks before the Covid-19 pandemic brought track and field to a grounding halt. When competition finally resumed, Duplantis capped his season by producing the highest outdoor vault of all time (6.15m) and finished the year undefeated in 16 competitions.
The man referred to as Mondo, went past Ukrainian legend Sergey Bubka’s 26-year mark, setting a outdoor new pole vault world record of 6.15m at the Diamond League meeting in Rome. He bettered the mark of 6.14m achieved by Bubka in July 1994 in Italy.
You can the watch record-breaking jump in the videos below:
Here are the excerpts from Duplantis’ interview with WION:
Question: 2020 was a rather difficult year for the world but for you, a year you will remember for ever, especially after being named Male Athlete of the year.
Duplantis: 2020 started off perfectly for me. I had a close to perfect indoor season where I was able to break the world record twice so I can’t really complain. Everything felt right about the world and then two weeks after the indoor season closed, the pandemic started to set in. Everything came to a screeching halt. All the events I prepared for, the Olympics and the European Championships were postponed. but I was still able to come away with an outdoor season and get some good marks in despite the restricted season. I cannot complain how things worked out but it was definitely worse for other people.
You just turned 21 and are already being described as the present and future of athletics. How does that mantle sit with you and would you agree that the sport is in great hands especially with so many new champions emerging over the last two years. And what did you make of so many world records in 2020.
Everyone was asking me if I could fill Usain Bolt’s shoes when I broke the world record. I do not worry about it too much as we are different people who do different events. I go out there, try to jump high and just be genuine. I like putting on a show and everything else just works out. Our sport has a lot of great athletes in a lot of different events. Sport works that way, once someone moves on new stars step up and that is always the case. Athletics does not need to worry as there will be good results down the road.
Talking off the 2020 season, a lot of my fellow athletes were limited in what we could do training wise and we did not have access to our usual training facilities. Training was tougher during the pandemic and it was very surprising to see the level of performance once the season resumed. I do not know how that happened but probably everyone was in shape to peak at the Olympic games in Tokyo and carried it into the truncated season.
What did the lockdown period teach you?
When the pandemic started to set in, it taught me how important relationships are. I was unable to train at my usual facility in Louisiana and I moved back with my parents. My elder brother who works in New York came back home as his work place shut down and my middle brother who plays Baseball for the New York Mets also came home. We were all together at home after a very long time. It was special to spend that time with my family. It was tough as we did not get to go out and do stuff together but it was special to spend quality time with my family and that was a silver lining for me.
Pressure of expectations?
I have had expectations from a very young age but I also have very huge expectations from myself. I always believed as a kid that I was capable of breaking the world record and I thought that eventually, I would get up to the required heights and be chasing for Olympic golds. My expectations of myself always equalled what other people thought of me and that ensured I never stressed over what people thought of me. But yes, expectations have been higher than ever before.
Memories of breaking the World Record (6.17m) in Torun?
Breaking the world record for the first time in Torun was a very crazy feeling. There was this rush of emotions that flooded through my body as I cleared the bar and it was hard to believe that it actually happened. I always dreamt of the day it would come and the moment and the second I went over the bar and realised what was happening I felt like I blacked out for a second and I remember running around and shouting like crazy. You do not get too many moments like that in your career and I will always cherish it.
Breaking Sergey Bubka’s outdoor mark in September?
Sergey Bubka is still considered greatest pole vaulter that ever lived. I want to be the best pole vaulter that ever lived and I want to go out there and do the things that he did and make it even better. I want to jump even higher and accomplish more. I want to do things that nobody has ever seen before and while there is a long way to go I have made a good start.
Unpredictability of Pole Vault at the Olympics?
Pole vault has a lot of surprises and anything can happen on any given day. I do not know how the conditions will be or how I will be feeling on that day. I will go in there and make sure I am in the best shape possible and everything else works out. I am going to do everything I can to end up on the top of that podium.
Concerns over possible restrictions at Tokyo?
I have not been to an Olympics before but I can imagine it is very special meeting people from all over the world and sportspersons from other disciplines as well. I understand that everything will be different at Tokyo but the world is different now after the pandemic and one has to get used to it . For me, restrictions or not, I hope the Olympics do take place.