Sam Kendricks vaults to a second world title at the IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019 (© Getty Images)
Another night, another mammoth jumps showdown.
This time it was the men’s pole vault where Sam Kendricks became just the second man to successfully defend a world title in the event after a captivating battle with teenaged sensation Armand Duplantis.
The pair cleared 5.97m before topping out at 6.02m after a riveting jump-for-jump battle, with Kendricks winning the second US title of the night, just minutes after Donavan Brazier’s national and championships record run in the 800m, on countback.
“I am elated, stunned and excited, all at the same time. It’s almost hard to take it in,” said Kendricks, who illustrated yet again how well he competes when the pressure is on. “To have three men over six metres all going for it --the Titans of the event this year-- made it such a memorable night. We weren’t dueling as enemies but as rivals and friends.”
Indeed, three men who had topped six metres or better this season --Kendricks 6.06m, Piotr Lisek 6.02m and Duplantis 6.00m-- were all in the field, promising and evening ripe for drama. And the sport's greatest acrobats delivered.
5.70m, the second height of the competition, reduced the field to eight, but only the big three successfully negotiated 5.80m to secure the medals early. Then the war began.
After each missed on their first attempts at 5.87m, Duplantis was the first to sail over with a massive clearance. Lisek quickly followed suit. After two modest attempts, Kendricks finally cleared on his third but found himself trailing in bronze medal position.
But as he's often done, the defending champion bounced back with a solid first attempt clearance at 5.92m after misses by Duplantis and Lisek, to retake the lead. Duplantis fell shy again on his second attempt, descending too close to the bar. Lisek chose to pass to the next height but Duplantis tried again, this time sailing well clear to move into second.
Duplantis's first go at 5.97m produced the height, but he hit the bar on his descent. Lisek, with just two attempts left, was even closer, but he too pounded the bar on his way back to earth. Meanwhile, Kendricks' maiden attempt was the farthest off the mark as he knocked it off the pegs on his ascent.
Duplantis, who let his frustration show after his first miss, showed even more of it after his second. Lisek followed but he too was out of steam, again knocking the bar off on his way down, forced to finish with bronze.
Next up, Kendricks with his second attempt, one that wasn’t especially close, directing the spotlight back on Duplantis who once again put his youthful cool on display with his best jump of the night, nudging the bar on his way down but watching it stay on as he landed.
But Kendricks immediately responded in kind, producing his best vault of the championships with a clean clearance to hold on to the lead and as it turned out, seal the win. He let out a roar as he landed, with the vociferous crowd roaring their approval in return.
6.02m proved a bar too high, thus ending the young Swede’s quest to become just the second teenager to win the world title. The youngest ever? An unknown Ukrainian by the name of Sergey Bubka, who was about three-and-a-half months shy of his 20th birthday when he took the title at the 1987 edition. He went on to win the next five. Duplantis will be around, and either approaching his peak or at it, for at least that many more.
Countback at 5.70 determined the next four spots.
German Bo Kanda Lita Baehre was fourth, Olympic champion Thiago Braz fifth, with 2013 champion Raphael Holzdeppe sixth and Frenchman Valentin Lavillenie tied in sixth.
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF