The pole vault final at the 2018 European Championships in Berlin is considered by many as one of the greatest contests in history and Armand Duplantis prevailed in another instant classic at the Lausanne Diamond League on Wednesday (2), clearing a world lead and outdoor lifetime best of 6.07m.
The clash between Duplantis and reigning two-time world champion Sam Kendricks was exceptional from a competitive as well as a statistical standpoint. Around one thousand engrossed fans in downtown Lausanne witnessed both vaulters soar over the six metre-barrier, a feat which has only occurred five times in event history prior to last night.
Kendricks hasn’t been at his best this summer but with a handful of competitive appearances under his belt, the American rekindled the form which has taken him to the last two world titles. Taking to the makeshift runway just before Duplantis in the vaulting order, Kendricks kept the pressure on the world record-holder by amassing a near faultless scorecard with seven first-time clearances between 5.72m and 6.02m.
Duplantis passed at 5.77m and 5.82m but the Swede took every height between 5.82m and 6.02m, clearing each of the five heights on his first attempt and with the mastery which propelled him to back-to-back world records of 6.17m and 6.18m during his remarkable indoor campaign.
The next height of 6.07m proved beyond Kendricks’ capacity last night but Duplantis inevitably soared over it on his first attempt without even grazing the upright, seizing the outright world lead and adding two centimetres to his outdoor lifetime best which was set in Berlin 2018.
On this form – and in the right conditions – Duplantis looks capable of surpassing the world outdoor record which stands to Sergey Bubka at 6.14m. Given the manner with which he was clearing the upright yesterday, that mark could have even been displaced from the record books last night but the Swede was ultimately denied by the fading light in Lausanne.
Duplantis was vaulting towards the darkening night sky and despite the frantic efforts of the organisers to illuminate the runway along with the crowd who collectively activated the torches on their smartphones, the European champion called it a night after one aborted attempt at a prospective world record height of 6.15m.
“In the end it got too dark to go for 6.15m and I felt it was unsafe to continue any further. I felt I was in the zone. But you have to be prudent,” said Duplantis whose calibre of vaulting last night brought back memories of his superlative indoor season in which he cleared six metres or higher in all five of his competitions.
Duplantis will vault again in Brussels on Friday evening and he is also due to face both Kendricks as well as Olympic champion Thiago Braz, who cleared 5.73m last night, at the famous ISTAF meeting in Berlin on 13 September. Like many athletes Duplantis’ training programme was adversely affected during the early weeks of lockdown but the Swede is one of a number of athletes to have demonstrated excellent form in this late summer season.
“You can see a lot of us are getting back to our best shape – Renaud [Lavillenie] was good, Thiago is getting back there. We could be looking at some great pole vaulting in what is left of this season,” said Duplantis.
Duplantis provided the second part of a Swedish double at the Place de l’Europe after Angelica Bengtsson cleared a season’s best of 4.72m ahead of Great Britain’s Holly Bradshaw and Switzerland’s Angelica Moser who were second and third on countback at 4.64m.
“This has been a beautiful experience, the energy from the fans has been amazing and the city is a great backdrop,” said Bengtsson.
“I’m happy to be able to come out and put on a show for the fans and hopefully help to lift their spirit as it’s been a tough year for everyone.”