Armand Duplantis lives up to anticipation to win gold: 'Feels like it's been such a long time coming'

After being in the public eye since he won the World Youth Championships aged just 15, the 21-year-old 'Mondo' Duplantis rode his favourite tag to gold for Sweden.

Picture by 2021 Getty Images

The eyes of the world have been on Armand 'Mondo' Duplantis for years.

Ever since his victory at the 2015 World Athletics U18 Championships as a 15-year-old, the Swedish pole vaulter has been widely expected to shine whenever he finally made it to the Olympic stage.

Incredible achievements along the way, like breaking Renaud Lavillenie's outright world record and Sergey Bubka's outdoor best, only ramped up the anticipation and expectation in Duplantis' Olympic debut at Tokyo 2020.

The runaway favourite, Duplantis lived up to that hype in the Japanese capital, and let out a big show of emotion when he cleared – with ease – the eventual winning height of 6.02m.

It was a comfortable victory for Duplantis, with silver medallist Chris Nilsen of the USA setting a new personal best at 5.97cm and Rio 2016 champ Thiago Braz a further 10cm back for bronze.

Duplantis even had three attempts at improving his own world record, and only narrowly brought the bar down on two of his tries at 6.19m.

"Winning the gold medal was a dream come true," he told Olympics.com. "You know, the journey… [this] feels like it's been such a long time coming, even if it's my first Olympics. It's just crazy, really."

What has it been like competing with everyone expecting big things for the past six years?

"There's kind of two sides of it, because there's a lot of people that have expected me to be in this position for quite a long time now, you know, since I was 17 years old or 15 years old or whatever it may be," Duplantis confirmed.

"But on the other hand, there was a lot of people that supported me and a lot of people that believed in me. If people believe that I can get to the position, it helps me believe that I can be here myself."

And while the world watched and waited with anticipation of what Duplantis could become, the Louisiana-born vaulter knew within himself that he would become the best.

"From a very young age when I started, I just always thought that I'm destined to become the best pole vaulter in the world," he said confidently.

"I always thought that if I did the right things and I followed the right path, that I could end up being where I want to be in that number one spot and that gold medal position. Fast forward a few years and here I am."

Tokyo 2020: How Duplantis won gold

Duplantis comfortably qualified for the final by clearing 5.75m, ranking him third in his qualification group.

In the final, the 21-year-old cleared at 5.55m and 5.80m, choosing to pass at 5.70 and 5.87.

He explained: "During the competition, especially those earlier heights, I was so focused on the main goal and what I wanted to accomplish, which was winning.

"It just felt like the whole competition… it just feels like it went by… it was years."

One by one, his rivals fell by the wayside. London 2012 champion Lavillenie of France bowed out at 5.70, world bronze medallist Piotr Lisek at 5.80, and Braz at 5.87.

That left him in a duel with Nilsen, who came into the competition with a previous personal record of 5.92.

As the American cleared at 5.92 and then matched Duplantis at 5.97, the question was how much further he could go.

Nilsen missed his first attempt at 6.02, followed by Duplantis going over at that height; the American also failed his next two tries to hand gold to the Swede, who reacted with a big celebration.

"I'm so focused on the winning height and I'm just trying to set everything up to make sure that, you know, when the bar is at 5.97, or 6.02, whatever it may be, that I need to jump to be able to win," he explained.

"I knew I could do it, but you still have to go out there and you got to do it. Nobody hands it to you. So I was just waiting for, like, just please, put it at the gold-medal mark, I just want to clear right now.

Finally when I was able to clear at 6.02, I could just let everything out, like, there it is. I did it. I finally did it.

– Armand Duplantis

How 'normal' Duplantis won't change

Duplantis had the in-venue support of his parents Helena and Greg, both pole vault coaches for the Swedish team.

However, despite his achievements, he won't be any different, according to his parents.

Helena told Olympics.com: "It is a big deal, but we don't make it a big deal, the whole Olympics; the world record, which it is. We're just kind of being normal.

"He lives a normal life, normal activities for a 21-year-old and he hasn't changed because of it. For him, just being able to be who he really is, I think this helps too. And he don't try to live up to somebody else's expectations. He's just him."

"He stayed true to himself," Greg added. "He's the same guy he really is. He hasn't changed. He acts the same toward his friends, his brothers, everyone, when when he before he won the youth world championships, when he was 15.

"That's kind of when he really hit the international scene and kind of became famous. And now he has an Olympic gold medal and he acts just the same. That's what makes me really proud."

What next for Duplantis? How high can he go?

Duplantis is only 21 and has many more years of vaulting ahead of him.

The big question, for someone who broke Renaud Lavillenie's previous world record of 6.16 twice in two weeks early last year, is how high he can go.

He attempted three vaults at 6.19m in Tokyo, which would have been a new world record. On the first and third tries, he cleared the bar but clipped it on the other side.

For his part, dad and coach Greg says there's a lot more to come.

"He can jump higher, a lot higher. He's got things he can work on.

"I'm not going to share everything, but we've got some things in the [works] and he can go a good bit higher than his jump now."