Renaud Lavillenie

Mondo Duplantis, Renaud Lavillenie
Getty Images

Mondo Duplantis, Renaud Lavillenie share win in backyard pole vault event

Leave a comment

French pole vaulter Renaud Lavillenie hardly treated this like a garden-variety competition.

It was for backyard bragging rights. So he raised his intensity.

Lavillenie and Mondo Duplantis of Sweden shared the gold medal Sunday during a men’s pole vault competition held in their own yards. Advertised as the “Ultimate Garden Clash,” it was a rare sporting event contested during the coronavirus pandemic.

Duplantis, a world record-holder, and Lavillenie, the 2012 Olympic champion, each cleared a height of 16 feet (4.9 meters) 36 times over a span of 30 minutes that was broadcast by World Athletics on its social media channels. Both had one miss. Sam Kendricks of the United States got the bronze by clearing the bar 26 times in a competition featuring three of the event’s biggest names.

It just might have been a preview of the Tokyo Games, which have been postponed to 2021. Lavillenie certainly took his concentration to another level.

“It’s crazy, but even doing this in my garden, I get the same feeling I’d get at a major championships,” Lavillenie said. “It was very exciting and I’m very happy to be a part of it.”

They tried to figure out a tiebreaker before electing to share the gold. The 20-year-old Duplantis initially pushed for a three-minute playoffs format that was on the table, while the 33-year-old Lavillenie nixed the plan. He was exhausted.

Lavillenie did vault over his 36th successful bar just ahead of Duplantis. The event was split into two 15-minute sessions with a short halftime.

“I will give you a rematch, Mondo,” he playfully said at the end.

The backyard idea was brought forth by Lavillenie, and the trio collaborated on the unique competition format because adjusting the bar wasn’t practical without officials in place.

Duplantis competed from his base in Lafayette, Louisiana, with his setup next to a garden wall. Kendricks was at his farm in Oxford, Mississippi, with his landing mat nestled between trees and near a fence where a horse occasionally was caught on the video feed.

Then there was Lavillenie, who took part from Clermont-Ferrand, France. The family’s trampoline was pushed to the side and there was a swingset in the background.

Don’t expect this to be a new pole-vaulting format, though. This was only for show.

“I want to jump high,” said Duplantis, the American-born vaulter who represents Sweden and broke Lavillenie’s world record in February. “I want to jump a little higher.”

Still, it made for entertaining theater.

“The general sense of this competition was just supposed to be fun,” said Kendricks, the two-time world champion. “A way to eat up time on a Sunday and give a chance for everybody to watch.”

Among those watching was World Athletics President Sebastian Coe, who gave the competition high marks.

“This is a brilliant initiative, great fun and really innovative,” Coe said in a statement. “My thanks go to them, their families and the World Athletics team for bringing live athletics back during lockdown. I hope we can bring a few more events like this to bring to all athletics fans out there.”

It’s already a hit among those in the track and field community.

“I love this idea so much,” world 200m champion sprinter Noah Lyles posted in a social media chat room for the event. “It’s such a great new way to compete.”

Duplantis, Lavillenie and Kendricks treated it almost like a track meet as they tried to average a jump per minute. The routine was simple: Vault, walk back with the pole, take a very quick breather — maybe a sip of water — and vault again.

Above all else, it was competition again. The outbreak of COVID-19 has the track and field season on hold.

“I miss the feeling of competing,” Duplantis said. “I miss the feeling of being out there with the guys. It was a really fun time. It was fun to get back into the competition gear again.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Aries Merritt hopes to make Tokyo Olympics his last

World’s best pole vaulters return to unique competition Sunday

Mondo Duplantis
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Pole vault stars Mondo Duplantis, Sam Kendricks and Renaud Lavillenie return to competition on Sunday.

The Ultimate Garden Clash will pit the friendly rivals from their own separate backyards on Sunday at 11 a.m. ET, streaming live on World Athletics’ YouTube channel.

Duplantis, the world-record holder of Sweden, will jump from Lafayette, La. Kendricks, the world champion, from Oxford, Miss. Lavillenie, the 2012 Olympic champion, from Clermont-Ferrand, France.

The unusual format: attempt to clear five meters as many times as possible within 30 minutes.

Normal pole vault competition, where athletes attempt to clear a maximum height, would be hard to pull off due to the need for officials to move up the bars and adjust standards.

World Athletics could hold similar competitions in future weeks.

Track and field’s premier circuit, the Diamond League, has postponed all meets through the first week of June.

A meet in Oslo on June 11 has been restructured, without spectators, with a limited number of athletes (at least one racing solo, chasing a record) under Norway’s coronavirus regulations.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Seb Coe: Track and field athletes need 6-7 weeks of specific training to return

U.S. sprint show in Rabat; Diamond League preview, TV schedule

Christian Coleman, Noah Lyles
Getty Images
Leave a comment

The world’s four fastest men since the Rio Olympics gather for a 100m showdown on Friday. They’re all Americans.

Christian ColemanNoah LylesRonnie Baker and Mike Rodgers headline a Diamond League meet in Rabat, Morocco, live on NBC Sports Gold at 1:55 p.m. ET and Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA at 3 p.m.

The question when Usain Bolt retired last year was who would succeed him as the world’s fastest man. Bolt is irreplaceable in the sport, so, fittingly, it has been a group effort. Though none of these Americans have come close to Bolt’s world record 9.58.

Coleman came first. In 2017, he ran a 40-yard dash in 4.12 seconds, one tenth faster than the NFL Combine record. Then he clocked 9.82 seconds at the 2017 USATF Outdoor Championships, which remains the fastest time in the world since the Rio Games. Then he beat Bolt in the semifinals and final of the 2017 Worlds, taking silver to Justin Gatlin overall.

This past winter, Coleman ran faster than the 60m world record three times in the indoor season. He looked like the next sprint king — especially given Gatlin is 36 years old — until slowed by a hamstring injury in the spring. Rabat marks Coleman’s first race since May 31.

Lyles and Baker took the baton from Coleman this outdoor season. Baker, who grew up running cross-country backdropped by moose in Alaska, beat Coleman in back-to-back May meets.

Lyles, fourth in the 200m at the Olympic Trials shortly after his high school graduation, dropped down to the 100m at USATF Outdoors last month and won in the fastest time in the world this year, edging Baker. Baker responded by matching Lyles’ 9.88 a week later.

Rodgers, a 33-year-old veteran without any global championship 100m medals, has clocked his best times in three years in a bit of a resurgent season.

There are no world championships this summer. Looking ahead, Coleman, Lyles and Baker have the credentials and the youth to be early favorites for the 2019 Worlds and 2020 Olympics.

Jamaica’s men’s sprint program has tumbled like the bizarre end to Bolt’s career. They have no men in the top 20 in the world this year. Olympic bronze medalist Andre De Grasse of Canada just prematurely ended his season for a second straight year due to hamstring injuries.

Maybe somebody else comes along — Great Britain’s Zharnel Hughes (personal best 9.91) must be mentioned — but for now the U.S. owns the 100m for the first time in a more than a decade. That will be clear to anybody watching Rabat on Friday.

Here are the Rabat entry lists. Here’s the schedule of events (all times Eastern):

1:55 p.m. — Men’s Long Jump
2:07 — Women’s High Jump
2:23 — Women’s Shot Put
2:30 — Men’s Pole Vault
3:04 — Men’s 400m
3:12 — Women’s 800m
3:21 — Men’s 1500m
3:32 — Women’s 200m
3:34 — Men’s Javelin
3:39 — Men’s 3000m
3:42 — Women’s Triple Jump
3:57 — Women’s 100m Hurdles
4:05 — Women’s 5000m
4:30 — Men’s 100m
4:38 — Women’s 1000m
4:46 — Men’s 3000m Steeplechase

Here are five events to watch:

Men’s Pole Vault — 2:30 p.m. ET
London Olympic champion Renaud Lavillenie and world champion Sam Kendricks even split their six head-to-heads so far this season, with Lavillenie holding a 16-14 career heat-to-head, according to Tilastopaja.org. The last time both men entered a meet and neither won was the Rio Olympics. That gold medalist, the struggling Thiago Braz of Brazil, hasn’t won an international outdoor competition since the Games and ranks No. 92 in the world this outdoor campaign. All are in the Rabat field.

Women’s 200m — 3:32 p.m. ET
Six women could realistically win this. Like rising Harvard senior Gabby Thomas, who was runner-up at the NCAA Championships on June 9, then won the Lausanne Diamond League 200m last Thursday. The Rabat field is clearly tougher, with Olympic 400m champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo of the Bahamas, world indoor 60m champion Murielle Ahoure of Cote d’Ivoire and U.S. champion Jenna Prandini

Men’s 3000m — 3:39 p.m. ET
This field has just about every 5000m star one could hope for, minus Selemon Barega, the Ethiopian who was grabbed by the shorts by countryman Yomif Kejelcha in the Lausanne 5000m last Thursday. Kejelcha is in this field, but their grudge match must wait. Also here: Bahrain’s Birhanu Balew, who took advantage of the Ethiopian exchange to win in Switzerland. And world champion Muktar Edris of Ethiopia, plus Olympic and world medalist Paul Chelimo of the U.S.

Women’s 5000m — 4:05 p.m. ET
World champion Hellen Obiri of Kenya takes on a diverse field. Start with Ethiopian Genzebe Dibaba, the 1500m world-record holder who ranks fourth all-time in the 5000m and handed Obiri her first defeat at the distance since 2016 at the Pre Classic on May 26. There’s also Ethiopian-born Dutchwoman Sifan Hassan, once arguably the world’s top 1500m runner who was third in the 5000m at 2017 Worlds. Then there’s American Molly Huddle, who has transitioned to the marathon but makes her Diamond League season debut here.

Men’s 100m — 4:30 p.m. ET
The key will be Coleman’s health. The Coleman from last summer and winter beats Lyles and Baker. If Coleman is not 100 percent, things get interesting. Coleman and Baker are excellent starters — Coleman a bit better than Baker — while Lyles should be in chase mode. He had enough track to pass Baker at nationals and win by .02.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Olympic stars demand IAAF rescind testosterone rule