The Renaud, Sam and Mondo show: how the men's pole vault is reinventing itself

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Updated July 20, 2017

Originally posted July 8, 2017.

Watch these three! Add in Pawel Wajciechowski, and Piotr Lisek, and you have the men's pole vault traveling show. The pole vault has been very exciting this year, as Sam Kendricks soars over six meters, Mondo Duplantis clears 5.90 meters and the only man who has clears 6.16 meters, Renaud Lavillenie, builds himself back up, from injuries last fall. These guys are providing an entertaining show!

Kendricks-Duplantis-LaVillenie-Lausanne17.jpgSam Kendricks, Mondo Duplantis and Renaud Lavillenie held a great Lausanne presser, photo by PhotoRun.net

If terrestrial TV was smart, and really pandering for ratings, they would adopt the men's pole vault. Right now, we have some tremendous athletes, from all over the world. I focus on the three above as an example of how athletes in an event take control of their own futures. Renaud Lavillenie is the world record holder, London gold medalist and European champion. Mondo Duplantis is the new, young, talented vaulter on the scene, who is coming into the elite world with some control, and Sam Kendricks, the American champion, is current Olympic silver medalist, newly minted six meter jumper and currently, very hot on the Diamond League circuit.

Here's is why they are getting it on promoting their event.

Track & Field is in a critical place. It will either get into the top ten sports viewerships on global TV, or it will revert behind professional walleye fishing. It all depends on how the key players react. It is time to pull the proverbial heads out and look at sport quite differently.

The London World Champs should be quite good. But, as always, there will be some revelation around the event that will focus some media on the dirt in sports. Those are easy stories to do. The Fancy Bears pieces are cases in point. Easy to write about, easy to invade people's privacy. No one speaks about the real intent of Fancy Bears: if Russian system is bad, then let's make sure everyone else is held to same level, and quite frankly some are not. Still, it is not right, in my opinion to put out confidential files with "likely doping", with no context, and in fact, where many, if not most, did not commit a doping offense.

Okay, now that is off my chest, here is what the men's pole vault is doing well.

Kendricks-LaVilleniePC1-Lausanne17.jpgRenaud Lavillenie and Sam Kendricks, clowning around a bit, photo by PhotoRun.net

Renaud Lavillenie likes to compete. He is coming back from injuries that curtailed his jumping since last November. Yet, he shows his imperfect vaulting right now, one jump at a time. His 5.87 meter clearance in Lausanne was his best of the year, and Renaud is fighting back, and will be jumping 5.93m to six meters by London Champs time.

LaVillenie_Renaud-Pre16.jpgRenaud Lavillenie, photo by PhotoRun.net

Why is Renaud Lavillenie special? The man has almost touched the sun! His world record of 6.16m is phenomenal. His next attempt split open his foot. Yet, without that fearlessness, without his love of the vault, we would not have the finest pole vault in the world in our sport.

His comments in the pressers, his time spent on Facebook revealing a bit of his life, and his fascination with speed and sports, brings tons of fans to the sport.

Kendricks-LaVilleniePC-Lausanne17.jpgRenaud Lavillenie and Sam Kendricks, sharing a laugh, photo by PhotoRun.net

Sam Kendricks is the US champion. He is also the world's nicest guy. Who can not like him? But, that is Sam. That is him really.

Kendricks_Sam1-Lausanne17.jpgSam Kendricks, LausanneDL, photo by PhotoRun.net

What makes Sam Kendricks so special? His sincere interest in answering your questions. His discussion over clearing six meters, and how Renaud respected him after he defeated Renaud in a vault compeitition were telling about both men.

He competes well, celebrates other's jumping and speaks with experience and knowledge about jumping six meters, his relationship with Renaud and his admiration for the new young star, Mondo Duplantis.

Duplantis_MondoPre-Pre17.JPGMondo Duplantis, Pre Classic, photo by PhotoRun.net

Mondo Duplantis? Where do we start? The young Swede/US based young man is a world class vaulter and seventeen year old, both at the same time. He is on social media, he speaks well, and admires Renaud and Sam, while competing with them. Mondo is the future of the pole vault, and his family allows him to be a young person as well as an elite athlete.

Why is this good for the sport?

Track & Field has so many good things, which are hidden behind some archaic structures, and groups, fearful of change. Some are terribly afraid of change, as that change might destroy their power bases. But, truth is, there is enough money and power to go around if we can figure out how to communicate this sport to 14-24 year olds.

A healthy, vibrant and financially successful athletics media is also a need, as young writers, and young media, have to be truly dedicated, as the ability to make a living is a true challenge. It is virtually impossible to make a living wage in the sport with most athletics media trying to redefine itself in a sports world that demands immediacy, that demands accurate content, but does not value the media enough to put a price on that content. For decades, stalwarts such as Athletics Weekly, Track & Field News and regional running publications have kept the sport media thriving. The need for websites, blogs and video is insatiable. The key is how to make a living from doing it? Some are charging for video and content programming. Is that a long term or short term solution? I am not sure yet.

Renaud, Sam and Mondo will not answer all of the questions that are plaguing our sport, but they should be an example of how to approach an event and attract fans, new, old and those yet to become addicted to the world's oldest sport, athletics.

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