The pole vault is one of the most enduring of athletic brotherhoods. Stuart Weir uses this topic as his last article on the Bislett Games in 2019. We will catch up with Stuart in early July in Switzerland.
The Men’s pole-vault was excitedly anticipated and did not disappoint. I had an opportunity to speak to reigning World and Diamond League champion, Sam Kendricks and to the young star Armand “Mondo” Duplantis, the day before the competition.
Sam Kendricks, photo by PhotoRun.net
Kendricks could hardly contain his own excitement: “Oslo is a kind of turning point for our season. Now that the American season is over, we have an influx of new young talent and some of them are coming to the Diamond League for the first time. And I, as the Diamond League winner, have to look at this as a new challenge.”
“Pole vault is usually an event for mature athletes and it’s kind of anomalous now that there is so much young talent. I was the young talent and I suppose I am now in the middle generation. There are older pole-vaulters and much, much younger ones. But all these 20 year old vaulters make me look old! It comes in waves and some years one person is dominant but others there is a thronging for the gold medals”.
Duplantis has just come off a surprise NCAA defeat but is not letting that faze him: “I thought I had a good collegiate season”, he told me. “Of course I didn’t want it to end with a loss so I kind of left that one box unchecked. I am at peace with it now and I don’t want to dwell on it. I’m a professional now and I have to act like a professional. I am ready for the new season and I have a lot of important meets coming up. I’m excited, ready for it and ready to move on.”
“I could have become professional before college but I feel it was important for me to grow as a person. The college experience was very good for me, helping me to mature, live on my own and take responsibility for myself. It was part of the plan. When I went to college we were pretty sure I was just going to stay one year and have the great facilities and coaching staff there. It is definitely the right decision”.
The relationships between vaulters – men and women – seem close. Mondo told me: “Pole vaulting is like your brotherhood”. Sam Kendricks said of Mondo: “He respects me as a competitor and he knows that I respect him as a competitor” adding: “Mondo and I have had a competitive relationship for a while now and have competed against each other many times. And we always seem to jump well together. In Stockholm last year he jumped 5.86 and I 5.81. In London I was 5.92 and he was 5.86. In Paris he jumped 5.90 and I did 5.96 so my best jumps seem to come when I’m jumping against Mondo”.
Mondo also relishes the competition and the friendships: “We are out there every competition busting our butt trying to beat each other but at the end of the day we got to have fun with it. We don’t want to lose. We want to beat the heck out of each other but there are things you can’t control. I can’t control how Sam jumps. I can just control myself. But there is no reason to let the fact that we are competitors get in the way of seeing someone as a cool guy I would like to hang out with”.
In Olso, Kendricks won with 5.91m with Piotr Lisek second, Cole Walsh third and Armand Duplantis fourth, all on 5.81.
Kendricks said of the competition: “Mondo has that magic about him but I fell back on my experience to take the win. It’s my first time in this beautiful stadium and I love it here. We weren’t battling each other, we’re all just chasing the bars”.
Mondo was less happy, saying: “It wasn’t a good competition, I never felt like I found the right rhythm, but I competed well despite not feeling too good. I can’t make up my mind how I feel just yet. There’s a lot to improve on but I’m excited as I’ve had a good start to the season – I feel a lot faster, bigger, stronger and hopefully that will translate to some big bars”.
This rivalry will run and run.