The danger with an athlete as great, as gifted, as astonishingly accomplished as Mondo Duplantis is that we could easily become complacent about his class.
Such is the ruthless, clinical efficiency with which the 22-year-old has taken apart the pole vault record books in recent years, it’s become almost routine, expected, for him to dominate, his greatness by now almost a given among fans.
But it’s worth remembering – every time he does what he did on the final day of the World Athletics Indoor Championships Belgrade 22 – that this is no ordinary champion. These are no ordinary achievements.
With his clearance of 6.20m** at the Stark Arena on Sunday night (20), the Swedish vaulter set his second world record in the Serbian capital in the space of just 13 days.
“I feel like Belgrade is going to be a special place in my heart forever,” he said.
When searching for context about his achievements, the obvious starting point is with Sergey Bubka, who broke the outdoor pole vault world record 17 times during his career, the indoor world record 18 times – his 6.14m mark lasting 20 years before Renaud Lavillenie improved it in 2014.
While Duplantis has some distance left to go to rack up the same number of titles as Bubka – who won one Olympic gold, six world outdoor titles and four world indoor titles – the Swedish star looks well on his way.
He has studied the history of his event, which is the first step towards rewriting it.
“I know how much Bubka has pushed this sport to where it is today,” said Duplantis on Sunday. “I want to do something similar to what he has done, because we’re a lot more capable than we think we are. When you push the limits, you realise how possible the next (level) is.”
Born: 10 November 1999. Coaches: Greg and Helena Duplantis.
The third son of former pole vaulter Greg Duplantis and former heptathlete Helena (née Hedlund), Armand ‘Mondo’ Duplantis was born into an athletic family. His older brothers Andreas and Antoine were introduced to pole vault at an early age; Andreas went on to represent Sweden, their mother’s country of birth, at various age-group championships, while Antoine dropped pole vault in favour of baseball.
Armand, however, showed the most promise and set numerous age-group records from as young as the age of seven. He scaled four metres for the first time at age 13 and had progressed to five metres just two years later.
During that same year, he made his international championships debut at the World U18 Championships Cali 2015 and came away with the gold medal. He followed it with a bronze medal at the World U20 Championships Bydgoszcz 2016, where he was the youngest in the field, and came back even stronger in 2017.
He scaled a world U20 record of 5.75m during the indoor season and improved the mark to 5.90m outdoors, also breaking the senior Swedish record in the process. He went on to win the European U20 title before reaching the final at the World Championships London 2017, placing ninth.
His momentum continued in 2018. He finished seventh at the World Indoor Championships Birmingham 2018, then went over heights of 5.92m and 5.93m in his first few competitions of the outdoor season. He became a regular on the Diamond League circuit and won in front of a home crowd in Stockholm. In other competitions, he beat the likes of world record-holder Renaud Lavillenie and world champion Sam Kendricks.
He went into the European Championships as one of the medal favourites, having won the world U20 title in Tampere, but few would have predicted he would win – and so convincingly. The 18-year-old popped over 6.00m on his first attempt, becoming the youngest six-metre vaulter in history, and then went on to scale 6.05m, a world U20 record.
Duplantis enrolled at Louisiana State University and had full collegiate indoor and outdoor seasons in 2019. He turned professional half way through the year and went on to notch up victories and big vaults on the international circuit. He closed out his season at the World Athletics Championships Doha 2019, where he took the silver medal with 5.97m.
With no collegiate competition commitments to contend with, a rejuvenated Duplantis started his 2020 campaign with a bang, clearing 6.00m in his first competition of the year at the World Athletics Indoor Tour meeting in Dusseldorf. That was just a taster of what was to come, though, as four days later he cleared a world record of 6.17m in Torun.
He still wasn’t finished, though. At the World Athletics Indoor Tour meeting in Glasgow one week later, Duplantis stunned the athletics world again, improving his world record mark to 6.18m.
The Covid-19 pandemic disrupted the early part of his outdoor season, but by the time of the Wanda Diamond League meeting in Monaco in August, Duplantis was once again in full flow, winning with 6.00m. He continued his winning streak with six-metre vaults at the Diamond League meetings in Stockholm, Lausanne and Brussels.
At each of those meetings, he had attempted 6.15m – what would be the highest ever outdoor vault – but was unsuccessful each time. At the Golden Gala in Rome, however, it finally clicked and he got over 6.15m on his second try. Aged just 20, Duplantis became the highest vaulter in history, indoors and outdoors.
Major events returned in 2021 and Duplantis rose to the occasion at the two biggest championships of the year. The first was the European Indoor Championships in Torun, where he won with 6.05m. He then maintained that form for most of the outdoor season and delivered on the biggest stage of all, winning gold at the Tokyo Olympics with 6.02m.
He started 2022 with two key initial aims – to break the world record again and win world indoor gold. Opening his season with a 6.02m win in Karlsruhe, he went on to also triumph in Berlin, Uppsala and Birmingham, going higher than six metres each time. But he was just getting warmed up. Competing at the World Athletics Indoor Tour Silver meeting in Belgrade, at the same venue that would host the World Athletics Indoor Championships Belgrade 22 a couple of weeks later, he achieved 6.19m on his 54th attempt at the height but knew there was more to come.
He was right. Returning to the Stark Arena, he achieved 6.20m on just his third try to secure his first senior world title.
“6.20m, it just sounds really good,” he said. “It’s the next barrier. It has this special ring to it.”
So now how high does he think he can go?
“The sky is the limit.”
Age 6: 1.67m
Age 7: 2.33m*
Age 8: 2.89m*
Age 9: 3.20m*
Age 10: 3.86m*
Age 11: 3.91m*
Age 12: 3.97m(i)*
Age 13: 4.15m
Age 14: 4.75m(i)
Age 15: 5.30m
Age 16: 5.51m
Age 17: 5.90m*
Age 18: 6.05m*
Age 19: 6.00m
Age 20: 6.18m(i)* WR / 6.15m
Age 21: 6.10m(i) / 6.10m
Age 22: 6.20m(i)**
* = world age best
Highest vaults in history, indoors and outdoors
1 6.20i Mondo Duplantis (SWE) Belgrade 2022
6.19i Mondo Duplantis (SWE) Belgrade 2022
6.18i Mondo Duplantis (SWE) Glasgow 2020
6.17i Mondo Duplantis (SWE) Torun 2020
2 6.16i Renaud Lavillenie (FRA) Donetsk 2014
3 6.15i Sergey Bubka (UKR) Donetsk 1993
6.15 Mondo Duplantis (SWE) Rome 2020
6.14i Sergey Bubka (UKR) Lievin 1993
6.14 Sergey Bubka (UKR) Sestriere 1994
6.13i Sergey Bubka (UKR) Berlin 1992
6.13 Sergey Bubka (UKR) Tokyo 1992
6.12i Sergey Bubka (UKR) Grenoble 1991
6.12 Sergey Bubka (UKR) Padua 1992
6.11i Sergey Bubka (UKR) Donetsk 1991
6.11 Sergey Bubka (UKR) Dijon 1992
6.10i Sergey Bubka (UKR) San Sebastian 1991
6.10 Sergey Bubka (UKR) Malmo 1991
6.10i Mondo Duplantis (SWE) Belgrade 2021
6.10 Mondo Duplantis (SWE) Hengelo 2021
Career six-metre vaults
46 Sergey Bubka
40 Mondo Duplantis
21 Renaud Lavillenie
7 Maksim Tarasov
7 Rodion Gataullin
7 Jeff Hartwig
5 Steve Hooker
5 Sam Kendricks
Indoors and outdoors, including ancillary marks
**Subject to the usual ratification procedure
- WORLD ATHLETICS