Deakin Volz in the pole vault at the IAAF World U20 Championships Bydgoszcz 2016 (© Getty Images)
USA’s Deakin Volz didn’t just surpass his lifetime best during the men’s pole vault final on Saturday evening (23); he obliterated it. The 19-year-old first soared over 5.60m to take the gold medal, then flew higher still with a PB of 5.65m, adding 20 centimetres to his previous outdoor best.
The result was an upset, given Volz had been defeated at his own national U20 championships in Clovis, California, last month. However, those who knew of his pedigree realised a performance like this was always imminent.
His father, Dave, is a former US record-holder at the event who competed at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, and the way his son is going, that’s an achievement that Deakin now appears poised to emulate in four years’ time.
In Saturday evening’s final, however, the pressure was heaped not on Volz, but on Australia’s Kurtis Marschall, who shocked the U20 ranks of pole vaulting by clearing 5.70m and qualifying for the Rio Olympics last month in Mannheim.
Volz opened his competition on shaky footing, clearing the straightforward height of 5.00m before recording a failure at 5.10m. However, he sailed clear at the second attempt and followed it with first-time clearances at 5.30m and 5.40m.
Marschall recorded an early failure at 5.30m, but cleared at the second attempt before going on to clear 5.45m and 5.55m also on the first try. That put him firmly in command, as only Volz was left in the competition at such a lofty height.
When Volz failed his first attempt at 5.60m, it looked as if the gold was headed to Australia for the first time in 20 years, but he had other plans. On his second attempt, Volz got a perfect plant and elevated directly upwards, making no contact as he soared over the bar in a perfect arc.
Marschall had one attempt remaining to answer at 5.60m, and though his legs and hips sailed over without contact, his chest bumped the bar off and with that, the gold was Volz’s.
“It’s incredible,” said Volz. “I missed a jump early and wasn’t in a good spot, but I fought on and just kept moving up poles, jumping higher and higher. When I cleared 5.50m I knew I had a good shot to win. I was seeded really low coming into this meet, so I’m not quite sure I can believe I won. My Dad sent me a text this morning saying, 'time to go jump 5.60m', so I one-upped him there.”
Marschall finished second with a best of 5.55m. “I knew I could get that 5.60m but I just couldn’t adjust,” he said. “It was a good competition though and I’ll learn a lot from it.”
Sweden’s world U18 champion Armand Duplantis equipped himself admirably against athletes two years his senior, finishing third with a best of 5.45m. “I came into this ranked fifth or sixth, so my goal was to make the podium,” he said. “This feels really good.”
Greece’s Emmanouil Karalis finished fourth with a best of 5.40m, beating Britain’s Adam Hague, who also cleared 5.40m, on countback.
Iraq’s Muntadher Falih Abdulwahid bowed out in eighth position after two failures at 5.40m and one at 5.45m, leaving him with a best clearance of 5.30m on the day. However, Abdulwahid had much reason to be proud, given he was the first ever finalist for Iraq in the history of the IAAF World U20 Championships.
Cathal Dennehy for the IAAF