Duplantis aims for best possible shape in Paris-Xinhua

Armand Duplantis of Sweden poses with his new world record after the men’s pole vault event at the 2024 Wanda Diamond League Meeting in Xiamen, southeast China’s Fujian Province, on April 20, 2024. (Xinhua/Jiang Han)

After refreshing the world record for the eighth time, pole vault prodigy Armand Duplantis now looks to win Olympic gold medal in Paris.

by sportswriters Dong Yixing and Wu Junkuan

BEIJING, May 1 (Xinhua) — What does it feel like to be over six meters up in the clouds? Swedish pole vault sensation Armand Duplantis finds it difficult to articulate, even though he’s among the select few who have experienced it.

“I don’t know. It’s a weird feeling that only a few people ever get to feel and I’m fortunate enough that I’m one of the few that get to feel that,” Duplantis told Xinhua in an exclusive interview during the second meet of the 2024 Diamond League in Suzhou, east China’s Jiangsu Province.

“I get the question a lot, but I never really know how to answer it fully. Because I have such control of my body when I’m in the air, so I don’t have to worry about anything. I know I’ m in the right place,” the Swede added.

“You know that whenever you take the right jumps and you’re up there, then it’s where you’re supposed to be. It’s just a state of like nothing and it’s just kind of flows. And it’s a really, really cool and beautiful thing.”

Duplantis celebrates at the 2024 Wanda Diamond League Xiamen Meeting. (Xinhua/Li Ming)

Born to fly, the 24-year-old soared to his eighth world record of 6.24 meters at the season opener in Xiamen on April 20, which he “knew that was possible.”

Duplantis needed only three attempts to secure his title, clearing 5.62m, 5.82m and 6.00m all with a clean sheet. The bar was then raised one centimeter higher than its own world record set last September at the 2023 Diamond League final in Eugene, the United States. The world and Olympic champion duly soared over the bar once again in his first attempt at the Xiamen Olympic Sports Center.

“I knew that I was in a good shape. But I’ve never been to Xiamen, or I’ve never been to China before this trip. So I had no idea what to expect,” Duplantis recalled in Suzhou. “You have to be well-rested, well-fed and everything to make sure to lead up to a great result like that. And obviously everything went well.”

Things had been going well for Duplantis in the past few years, during which he won the Olympic gold in Tokyo, two world championships titles and two world indoor championships titles, as well as several world records under his belt.

Duplantis challenges the 6.25m height of the men’s pole vault final at the Yangtze River Delta Athletics Diamond Gala in Suzhou, east China’s Jiangsu Province, on April 27, 2024. (Xinhua/Wang Lili)

After clearing 6.17m at the Orlen Copernicus Cup in Torun, Poland in 2020, Duplantis said it was something he wanted since he was three years old. How come he had such a big dream when he was so little?

“I was a super big dreamer,” Duplantis said without hesitation. “I just had big dreams. I wanted to be the best in the world, I wanted to be the world record holder, Olympic champion. And I just I always had these dreams since I was a kid.”

“And I think that’s very important for kids. If you’re a young athlete and are aspiring, really do anything to have big dreams. Because sometimes it comes true, or even if it doesn’t, if you shoot for the stars, you might land on the clouds, but you are still pretty high up there,” said Duplantis, who has been coached by his father Greg, a former world-class pole vaulter himself, since three.

“So I always have super big goals for myself. Sometimes I achieve and sometimes I don’t. I don’t think that you’re able to achieve anything if you don’t believe that you can at least.”

Duplantis greets the spectators during the men’s pole vault final at the Yangtze River Delta Athletics Diamond Gala. (Xinhua/Li Bo)

With less than three months away from the Paris Olympic Games, Duplantis has about five events left to keep his competition feel and figure out everything he needs to “jump high.”

“A new record will be nice in Paris, but I think the most important thing is to win and take back home the gold. That’s the most important thing when it’s a competition like the Olympics. But if I could break the record too, then that would be amazing.”

“I hope that I will be in my best possible shape when I get there, which I think is going to be the case,” he added. “Nothing too crazy, just go with my normal flow. Trust the process, and trust that everything is going to be in place where it needs to be for the Paris Olympics.”