Mondo Duplantis fails to break world record but strolls to pole-vault gold | Tokyo Olympic Games 2020
By 10pm the track was bare, the hammer cage was empty, the shot-put circle was deserted, and Mondo Duplantis had the Olympic stadium all to himself. Duplantis, 21, had already won the gold, with a vault of 6.02m, a height well beyond the reach of most of the men he had already beaten but which, for him, is little more than a warm-up. Duplantis asked the officials to put the bar up again, all the way to 6.19cm, one centimetre beyond the world record he set in Glasgow last year. With his first attempt, he brushed the bar with his thigh on the way down, then he bailed out of the second, and clipped the bar again with his third.
“I barely remember 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.’ I really thought I had it, but I just touched it a little bit too much on my way down.”
It would have been nice to do it, he said, but the gold medal would do just fine, too. “In a way I really enjoyed this experience, but damn I’m glad it’s over. Coming in as the huge favourite where everybody puts the pressure on you to win it’s just like: ‘Ah I can just chill now.’ I can just chill, and I can just enjoy the moment because I did it. I did it. I am the Olympic champion now.”
For those few minutes, Duplantis had the small crowd of volunteers, officials, journalists and athletes hanging on his every move. The only man who was not really watching was his rival, Renaud Lavillenie, who finished in eighth place. Lavillenie sat on the track, and stared into the middle distance. They are good friends, and had been talking to each other all evening, but at that point Lavillenie seemed to be too despondent to pay much attention.
Aside from Lavillenie, the only other vaulter who can get near Duplantis’s heights, the USA’s Sam Kendrick, was not competing because he had tested positive for Covid last week. Kendricks’s teammate, Chris Nilsen, took silver.
Duplantis’s was not the only dominant performance in the infield. Poland’s Anita Wlodarczyk made history when she won the women’s hammer throw. It made her the first woman to win three gold medals in any individual event. There were a group of athletes competing here trying to do it and two, Jamaica’s Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Croatia’s Sandra Perkovic, had already failed. But Wlodarczyk never looked like losing. She took the lead with a throw of 76.01cm in the second round, then stretched it further still with throws of 77.44cm and 78.48m in the third and fourth rounds.
“I feel good,” she said. “I was dreaming of becoming the queen of the hammer throw.” And now she has.