Armand Duplantis in the pole vault at the IAAF World U20 Championships Tampere 2018 (© Getty Images)
On a week where nothing seemed certain, where no favourite seemed impervious to the pressure of a major championship final, Sweden’s Armand ‘Mondo’ Duplantis was ice cool, dispatching his rivals to take Sweden’s first ever men’s pole vault gold with the minimum of fuss.
It’s a measure of the 18-year-old’s ascending star that at the end of the competition, having sealed gold with a championship record of 5.82m, his expression was one of nonchalance, his three failures at 6.01m leaving the tiniest hint of frustration for an athlete of a very different calibre to his peers.
Duplantis, of course, is the world U20 record-holder with a best of 5.93m, and such was his superiority here that as his rivals were whittling themselves down at heights like 5.30m and 5.40m, he was still resting, only first reporting for duty at 5.50m.
He sailed over that with ease to move into an immediate lead, then skipped 5.55m and had several inches to spare as he soared over 5.60m.
USA’s Zachery Bradford and Japan’s Masaki Ejima were unable to match him there, the two sorting themselves out for the minor medals by both clearing 5.55m, Bradford taking the silver on countback via his first-time clearance at 5.40m.
Germany’s Bo Kanda Lita Baehre had to make do with fourth after taking the risky decision to skip 5.55m after his first-time clearance at 5.50m, but that backfired after three failures at 5.60m.
Duplantis, meanwhile, was now competing only against himself, and of course the championship best of 5.71m set by Argentina’s German Chiaraviglio in 2006.
He swept that aside with one mighty clearance over 5.82m, then sent the bar up to 6.01m, where three failures followed, not that they could ever put a dampener on such a golden day for the Swedish sensation, who backed up his U18 title from 2015 with the U20 gold here.
“This is a huge relief to me because the competition was something I really needed to win and I had a huge pressure, but that also gave me some extra motivation,” said Duplantis. “It's a really special moment; this has been one of the really important steps. I'm going to celebrate with my family now.”
Bradford was also delighted with his silver. “Winning this was just another thing on my list that I wanted to achieve,” he said. “It was great to get the PB; I just loved the whole experience.”
After a nervous crescendo to the competition, Ejima was also pleased to walk away with a medal: “At one point, I thought my heart was going to break because I briefly lost the medal but I managed to get back my momentum thanks to the team support.”
Cathal Dennehy for the IAAF