IT WAS A TELLING MOMENT for our Men’s Athlete Of The Year. Following his World Record leap for the WC gold medal in Eugene, Mondo Duplantis fielded a question from a reporter who said that Greg Duplantis — Mondo’s dad and coach — had opined that his son had the potential to clear 6.30 or 6.40. In English measure that’s a mind-blowing 20-8 to 21-0 range. Did he agree with Dad?
The vault prodigy, a veteran at the still-tender age of 23, rolled his eyes in the universally recognized response to proud dads everywhere. But then he considered the question further, and referring to his new WR of 20-4½ (6.21), said, “I did not touch it. That gives you confidence that you can go higher.” Then he stowed that ambition away, centering himself by saying, “I’m going to enjoy this moment, enjoy what I did.”
The Cajun-born Swede takes our top honor for the first time (though in ’20, the truncated pandemic year with no AOY award, he was named MVP). This year the fan favorite put together a campaign that very nearly was perfect, highlighted by world titles indoors and out, 3 World Records, and 23 vaults above the once-daunting 6-meter (19-8¼) barrier.
That he is a huge fan favorite is due in part to his followers being able to see him in action so often. Like most vaulters, Duplantis competed frequently, showing his stuff in 19 finals in 12 countries on 3 continents. Only one other men’s No. 1 competed more often (discus thrower Kristjan Čeh at 21, though long jumper Miltiádis Tentóglou tied with Duplantis).
The year started auspiciously enough with an undefeated indoor campaign that culminated in a pair of WRs. The first came in Belgrade on March 7, when he topped 20-3¾ (6.19). Just 13 days later he won the World Indoor in the same arena, slipping over 20-4 (6.20).
“The sky’s the limit,” he said. “Another title, another World Record — it’s been a pretty good day. Going over 6.20m for the first time, it’s hard to explain. It’s something that you can only dream of.”
Outdoors the winning continued, with Diamond League victories in Doha, Eugene, Oslo and Stockholm. On his (European) home turf he prepped for the Worlds by clearing 20-2½ (6.16), the highest outdoor vault of his life.
More notably, it was the highest outdoor vault ever by any human, and back in the days when indoor and outdoor…