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Sunday, May 22, 2022

Armand Duplantis knows no borders

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The art of sport is to make even the greatest difficulty look easy. The boxer Muhammad Ali beat up his opponents while dancing, the footballer Franz Beckenbauer chased away his opponents with greatness, the tennis player Roger Federer won his games easily and casually. There are many more examples. A very current one is Armand Duplantis. The man is only 22 years old and is currently the most amazing figure in athletics. Especially since he practices the discipline that is considered the most difficult of all in the Olympic core sport: the pole vault.

Almost two weeks ago he jumped the height of 6.19 meters in Belgrade and improved his own world record by one centimeter. He did it again with characteristic simplicity of his. While other brawny, panting jumpers bend their bars and each sequence of the jump attempt seems like an effort, Duplantis sprints down the track like a greyhound and seconds later soars over the pole like a baby bird.

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“The lightness is just amazing,” says Christine Adams. The 48-year-old is the leading German national pole vault coach. She expects German jumpers Torben Blech and Oleg Zernikel to sell well this weekend at the World Indoor Championships, again in Belgrade. From a German perspective, this meant jumps of around 5.80 meters. So the power gap with Duplantis is about forty centimeters. In the pole vault they are worlds. Adams has seen plenty of pole vaulters. But someone like Armand Duplantis? “No, he’s in a league of his own.”

Duplantis was born with the talent and joy of the special and difficult discipline. He grew up in Lafayette, a city in the US state of Louisiana. Even when he was a little boy, he practiced with a broomstick in the living room. At seven years old he broke the first records for him.

What is the secret of Armand Duplantis

But not only talent and joy made him a great jumper. As with many exceptional athletes, Duplantis benefited from the support of his parents. His father, Greg, was a professional pole vaulter, his mother, Helena, a successful heptathlete from Sweden. Due to the origin of his mother, Duplantis leaves for Sweden. The support even went so far that Greg and Helena Duplantis had a high jump facility built for their son just a few feet from his parents’ home. In these conditions, he quickly grew into a high jump giant, even more gifted than pole vault icon Sergej Bubka.

“This is just the beginning,” Duplantis said after his world record a few days ago in Belgrade, which he now wants to break in the same place. National coach Adams is also convinced that there is more to come. “He already jumped 6.05 meters as a teenager. That means there should be more potential than 10 or 15 centimeters above it,” he says.

Much has been puzzled as to what the miracle jumper’s secret to success might be. His fast run, the hard stick he uses or his perfect transition from run to jump. It is probably the interaction of all the elements. But Adams also believes that none of his competitors can learn anything from him. “He started doing it when he was a little kid. That sets him apart from everyone else,” she says. He has perfected the jump and doesn’t have to think much when he jumps anymore. “If anything can stop him, it’s injuries because the strain on his body, his joints and his back is high because of the extreme way he jumps. Even if it seems so easy with him at first glance.

Now he wants to tackle the 6.20 meters, Duplantis promised a week and a half ago in Belgrade. The record should already fall in the final fight on Sunday. The only reasonably serious challenger to him is probably American Chris Nilsen, who recently jumped over 6.05 meters in Rouen. This was an absolute pinnacle in the pre-Duplantis era, a height that scored over 90 percent wins. For the World Championships in Belgrade, 6.05 meters should almost certainly mean second place. Because: “Duplantis can only beat himself,” German coach Adams is convinced.

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