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Olympic champion Duplantis agonizes over missed world record vault

By Pirate Irwin, AFP Published Aug 04, 2021 12:26 pm

Armand Duplantis awoke on Wednesday as Olympic champion in the pole vault -- but admitted it might break his heart to see how close he was to beating his own world record.

The 21-year-old American-born Swede made three attempts to break his own mark of 6.18 metres after he had won the final, coming close on the first attempt at 6.19m.

Duplantis took his first Olympic title with a best mark of 6.02m ahead of Chris Nilsen of the United States, who cleared 5.97m in the absence of his compatriot Sam Hendricks, who was ruled out after testing positive for COVID-19. 

"I barely remembered the jump itself," Duplantis said. 

"I just remember while I was going over I was like, 'that's the world record, that's it right here'."

Sweden's Armand Duplantis competes in the men's pole vault final during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo on August 3, 2021. AFP / Ben Stansall

"I really thought I had it, but I just touched it a little bit too much on my way down."

"I have not seen it. It was close? It's going to break my heart?"

Duplantis, who has an American father and a Swedish mother, said fulfilling the expectations of not just the Swedes but a whole host of pole vault fans had lifted a weight off his shoulders.

"I am just relieved," he said. "I feel like I can breathe now.

"I really enjoyed jumping out there."

'Just chill now'
He said he almost had too much time to think on the infield of the Olympic Stadium on a sweltering Tokyo evening.

He opted to pass several heights as one by one his opponents dropped out, leaving just 23-year-old Nilsen as the man to beat.

"Especially after (passing) 5.70m and 5.87m, having those long breaks it felt really stressful in the moment and a lot of nerves," he said.

Duplantis, who is coached by his former pole vaulter father Greg, said he could now rest easy. 

"Coming in as the huge favourite where everybody puts the pressure on you to win it's just like, 'ahh I can just chill now'," he said.

"I can just enjoy the moment because I did it. I did it. I am the Olympic champion now."

Duplantis -- who had to settle for silver in the 2019 world championships behind Kendricks -- admitted that his laid-back nature had been seriously tested ahead of the Olympics.

First-placed Sweden's Armand Duplantis celebrates on the podium with his gold medal after competing in the men's pole vault event during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo on August 4, 2021. AFP / Ina Fassbender

"A week or two ago I was starting (to feel the pressure)," he said.

"When we had the training camp there was definitely nights when I could not shut my brain off."

Duplantis said even world championships could not compare to the pressure he felt going into the competition in Tokyo.  

"It was a pretty overwhelming feeling because I've jumped in big meets but never anything like this," he said.

"I was a big favourite, everything was on me. I tried to be chilled about it, but it was stressful.

"So that's why in a way I really enjoyed this experience but, damn, I'm glad it's over."

(Banner photo: Gold medallist Sweden's Armand Duplantis celebrates after the men's pole vault final during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo on August 3, 2021. AFP / Ben Stansall)