Sweden’s Armand Duplantis is the youngest vaulter in history to clear six metres in the pole vault but the reigning European champion is still a student of the event.
“You can learn from everybody,” said Duplantis. “There are so many different aspects to the technique and there are some things people do better than me - and there are some things I do better than other people - so there is always room to get better.
“There are always things you can look at and you can take from someone else. There are people who jumped 6.00m who are slower than me so maybe they are doing something technically better - if I’m faster maybe I should jump even higher than 6.05m? There is always something you can take away from vaulters.
“People have their own strengths and weaknesses. Piotr Lisek, for example, we are very different builds - we jump very differently so it’s fun to see things that work for him and things that work for me and trying to incorporate what he does in his jump into mine.”
And this is despite the fact that only four athletes in history - Sam Kendricks (6.06m), Steve Hooker (6.06m), Sergey Bubka (6.15m) and Renaud Lavillenie (6.16m) - have vaulted higher than Duplantis.
The high regard the Swede clearly has for his opponents is such that the first instalment of The Match in Minsk - where Duplantis served as a Team Europe ambassador - was very much a friendly rivalry for the pole vaulting fraternity as well as another opportunity for Duplantis to watch and learn.
“In a lot of events the dynamics changed a little bit but in the pole vault, everyone is on the same team anyway - it’s kind of a brotherhood. No matter what team you are on, no matter which country you compete for, we are all in this together.
“I think it’s a level of respect we have for each other - we want other people to do good, we just want to do a little better. Europe v USA is a great rivalry and it brought a fun aspect to the sport,” said Duplantis.
Duplantis cleared 5.90m to score maximum points for the triumphant home contingent, leading Team Europe to a clean sweep of the top four places in Minsk. Kendricks was admittedly a notable absentee from The Match but they will clash once again next week at the IAAF World Championships in Doha where Duplantis will be making his second appearance at the age of 19.
Kendricks recently moved ahead of Duplantis on the world all-time list with a 6.06m clearance at the US Championships but Duplantis will be looking to draw on his experience at the European Championships when he vaulted immaculately, clearing every height up to and including 6.05m on his first attempt to match the highest vault ever achieved in a major championships.
But for Duplantis, bagging up the medals and racking up the accolades is more important than moving up the world all-time list - although a performance in excess of six metres is likely to be necessary to capture the title in Doha.
“I’m not thinking about the world record,” said Duplantis. “I have the World Championships coming up so all of my focus is on that. The legends are made in the big competitions but if you can’t perform in the big competitions, nobody is going to remember you. I was fortunate to have a good competition in Berlin last summer and I hope for something like that in Doha.”
But that is not to say Duplantis doesn’t harbour desires to improve on his 6.05m from the European Championships in Berlin.
“I’m tired of watching the 6.05m - it shows up too much on my phone and I don’t want to watch it anymore. I just want to move on to bigger and better things!”
Full interview here: