Swedish pole vaulter Mondo Duplantis (© AFP / Getty Images)
Heading into a new season, Mondo Duplantis is more focused than ever.
Quite literally; the Olympic pole vault champion and world record-holder recently underwent laser eye surgery. It was a quick and painless procedure, but one which he hopes could help him achieve his goal of winning two global titles in 2022 and improving upon his own world record.
Up until now, Duplantis had worn contact lenses when vaulting, but there was always a worry that he’d have a problem with them in the middle of an important competition. And trying to jump without wearing lenses was out of the question – his vision would simply be too blurry.
Now, though, he won’t have that concern. “The morning after the procedure, it felt like I woke up to a new world,” Duplantis told Aftonbladet. “Everything is so easy now, it’s just a relief.”
It’s not the only big change in the Olympic champion’s life in recent weeks. Just last weekend, Duplantis moved into a new apartment on Kungsholmen in Stockholm, giving him a permanent base in Sweden in what Duplantis describes as “one of the most beautiful cities in the world”.
Aside from the increased independence, it also means he’ll have easier access to European competitions – the first of which is due to be the Indoor Meeting Karlsruhe on 28 January. He will also compete in Birmingham on 19 February, but in between the two World Indoor Tour Gold meetings he will compete on home turf in Uppsala on 9 February.
He’ll face tough opposition there as he’ll take on the two men who joined him on the podium at the World Athletics Championships Doha 2019 – two-time world champion Sam Kendricks and Poland’s Piotr Lisek – as well as Olympic silver medallist Chris Nilsen, six-metre vaulter KC Lightfoot, and Olympic fourth-place finisher Emmanouil Karalis. Not surprisingly, the competition has been the talk of the town.
“It’s great that there’s such big interest in the event,” Duplantis said in a recent video call with Swedish media. “I’d like to give back to the audience in Uppsala, as I’ve lived and trained there in recent years. And it feels even more important to me now that I’m living in Sweden.”
It will also be an important stepping stone on his way to his first big goal of the year: the World Athletics Indoor Championships Belgrade 22.
Duplantis competed at the last edition of the championships in 2018, finishing seventh with 5.70m, aged just 18 at the time. Since then, of course, he has progressed to become the best pole vaulter in the world, twice breaking the world record in 2020 with 6.17m and 6.18m, and landing Olympic gold in Tokyo last year with 6.02m.
Now that he has one major senior title in his collection, he wants to win more.
“The goal is to win everything and then hopefully continue to do so in the future,” said Duplantis, who has donated the pair of pastel-yellow spikes he wore when setting his 6.18m world record to the Museum of World Athletics (MOWA). “I want to be the greatest pole vaulter of all time – that’s what gives me my motivation.
“My training has gone well,” he added. “I’m both stronger and faster. And I have not had any setbacks with injuries or illnesses. This is the most important thing during the training period. I’ve been a tiny bit sore sometimes, but that’s all part and parcel of pole vault.”
Last year Duplantis set world-leading marks of 6.10m indoors and outdoors. His world-leading indoor vault came in Belgrade, the city that will host this year’s World Indoor Championships. But the 22-year-old hopes to do better this year than simply improving on his own Serbian all-comers’ mark.
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“I will try for the world record every time I get the chance,” said Duplantis, who attempted a world record height of 6.19m at 12 of his competitions in 2021. “I’m in good shape, so it feels like it could come at any time. It’s time for me to take 6.19m, but 6.20m feels like a bigger goal. It sounds nicer, too.
“It’s easier to jump indoors, that’s just how it is,” he added. “The conditions are basically the same for every competition and there’s no wind to take into account, so it’s easier to get into a good rhythm throughout the indoor season.”
But Duplantis is looking beyond his indoor campaign and has clear goals for the outdoor season.
“I’ve never won the World Championships, so that’s my biggest goal for 2022,” he said.
Although he has competed at Eugene’s Hayward Field a couple of times already on the Wanda Diamond League circuit, it’s one of the few iconic athletics venues at which he has not yet been victorious.
Not that he would view that as being a barrier to his potential success; he dominated the pole vault in 2021 and notched up 15 victories and 14 six-metre clearances between January and September last year. No other vaulter in history – not even the legendary Sergey Bubka – has achieved so many six-metre vaults in a single season.
And now a stronger, fitter and – literally – more focused Duplantis looks set to do even greater things in 2022.
Jon Mulkeen for World Athletics