Mondo Duplantis in the pole vault at the World Athletics Indoor Championships in Belgrade (© Getty Images)
Mondo Duplantis had promised “something higher” than his latest world record of 6.19m when he returned to the Stark Arena for the World Athletics Indoor Championships Belgrade 22 and he duly delivered as he cleared 6.20m* with his third and final attempt on Sunday (20).
The 22-year-old Swede had already secured his first world title with a clearance of 6.05m but looked a little dejected during his first two unsuccessful attempts at the new height.
Genius that he is, he found it within himself to rekindle the competitiveness that has characterised his career.
Thus the Olympic pole vault champion won world indoor gold in the same arena where he had excelled in his most recent competition less than a fortnight earlier.
The gold was secured with what was, for him, a routine jump of 6.05m, his fourth consecutive first-time clearance following previous heights of 5.60m, 5.85m and 5.95m.
Silver went to Brazil’s Rio 2016 Olympic champion Thiago Braz, who cleared an area indoor record 5.95m, with 24-year-old US vaulter Chris Nilsen, the Tokyo Olympic silver medallist, earning bronze on 5.90m.
"To break the world record two times in two weeks, I can't complain," said Duplantis, who earned a $50,000 world record bonus. "Sometimes there are just things that you can't explain, they're just feelings and it seems like when I'm in Belgrade I have this feeling that I'm going to go high and do something really special."
As it so often appears nowadays, Duplantis looked to be competing at a calmer, more rarified level than the main throng of competitors, but he was given a run for his money on the night by two other hugely talented operators.
Braz moved into silver medal position at Nilsen’s expense with a third-time clearance of 5.95m. Nilsen, who cleared up to and including 5.90m with only one blemish, could progress no further.
It was arguable whether Duplantis, who set world records of 6.17m and 6.18m in 2020, was the strongest favourite to win his event at these championships. In the end, such speculation became unimportant.
While Duplantis dipped into the competition, Nilsen – who set a US indoor record of 6.05m earlier this month - took the steady course, going over – also without fault – at 5.45m, 5.60m, 5.75m, 5.85m and at his second attempt, 5.90m – at which height his rival had passed.
Less expected was the arrival alongside them of Valentin Lavillenie, younger brother of former world record-holder Renaud, who was not competing here but is still heading for Paris 2024 with hope in his heart.
Valentin Lavillenie bashed his chest in glee after achieving an ideally timed lifetime best of 5.85m at his second attempt.
But after failing to clear 5.90m he had the bittersweet feeling of fourth as Braz moved above him on countback after himself clearing 5.85m at the second attempt.
Braz, like Duplantis, passed at 5.90m. The latter cleared 5.95m at his first attempt.
The Brazilian finally managed 5.95m, but 6.05m proved a bar too far.
Mike Rowbottom for World Athletics
*Subject to the usual ratification procedure
|MEN'S POLE VAULT MEDALLISTS
|Mondo Duplantis 🇸🇪 SWE
|Thiago Braz 🇧🇷 BRA
|Chris Nilsen 🇺🇸 USA