Right around breakfast time Saturday morning, Armand Duplantis received a text message from Renaud Lavillenie.
“Have a good day baby,” it read, “but not too good.”
Duplantis laughed as he shared it, a brief distraction as he struggled to come up with the right words to describe precisely what it felt like to be the new pole vault world record holder.
Less than an hour earlier he topped 6.17m on his second attempt, adding a centimetre to the mark Lavillenie set six years ago, almost to the day. Duplantis is usually quick with words, expressive, with a thoughtfulness suggesting a maturity beyond his 20 years. But at this moment, he’s hit a wall.
Then his thoughts circle back to Lavillenie.
“Growing up, Renaud was my absolute idol,” he said. “There is no other person I’d want to take (the record) from.” He then wonders aloud if what he just said has come across the way it was meant to.
“To succeed him,” he clarified. “The support he’s given me through this whole process too, has been phenomenal.”
Then, he begins to gradually chip through that wall.
“Ever since I was three years old, four years old, this was the goal. I wanted to break the world record. I wanted to win all the gold medals there are to win, but one of the biggest goals, maybe the biggest, was breaking the world record.
“How do you explain a dream that’s been a dream since you were three years old? It’s a big dream, too. It’s not a little dream. And it’s a whole process building up to that moment. I can’t really get my head around it. Everything that has happened has built up to this. The little things, the big things. The bad things, the good things.”
Those all converged at the Orlen Copernicus Cup in Torun, Poland, on Saturday, the fourth stop of the World Athletics Indoor Tour, where Duplantis’s appearance was by far the most anticipated.
All things considered, the good have far outweighed the bad for Duplantis, the product of a sporting family – both parents were world-class athletes, father Greg a pole vaulter and mother Helena a heptathlete – who began vaulting at four and was already setting age group records at seven.
A multitude of high school honours followed during his secondary school years in the US. International honours – the 2015 world U18 title, 2018 world U20 title and 2018 European crown – for Sweden followed those. Last year, not yet 20, he took silver at the World Championships.
By then he was already a 6.05m jumper. Only three men had ever soared higher. That he would one day succeed Lavillenie carried an air of inevitability.
That was made abundantly clear in Dusseldorf last Tuesday when he narrowly missed his first ever attempt at 6.17m by the narrowest of margins – in his first competition of the year.
After his performance in Dusseldorf, he said, “everyone expected me to break it, and wanted me to break it at the same time. I knew that it was something that, until I do it, I’m going to get asked about it. So I’m really glad I got it out of the way after that meet.”
Age 6: 1.67m
Age 7: 2.33m*
Age 8: 2.89m*
Age 9: 3.20m*
Age 10: 3.86m*
Age 11: 3.91m*
Age 12: 3.97m(i)*
Age 13: 4.15m
Age 14: 4.75m(i)
Age 15: 5.30m
Age 16: 5.51m
Age 17: 5.90m*
Age 18: 6.05m*
Age 19: 6.00m
Age 20: 6.17m(i)* WR
* = world age best
World all-time pole vault list (indoors and outdoors)
6.17 Armand Duplantis (SWE) Torun 2020
6.16 Renaud Lavillenie (FRA) Donetsk 2014
6.15 Sergey Bubka (UKR) Donetsk 1993
6.06 Steven Hooker (AUS) Boston 2009
6.05 Maxim Tarasov (RUS) Athens 1999
6.05 Dmitri Markov (AUS) Edmonton 2001
6.04 Brad Walker (USA) Eugene 2008
6.03 Okkert Brits (RSA) Cologne 1995
6.03 Jeff Hartwig (USA) Jonesboro 2000
6.03 Thiago Braz (BRA) Rio de Janeiro 2016