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Award-winner Duplantis targets two more global titles in 2024

At the end of a year in which he retained his world pole vault title and twice improved his world record, Mondo Duplantis stood once more with an athlete of the year award in his hand.

The Swedish 24-year-old, who will open this Olympic year by competing at the first World Athletics Indoor Tour Gold meeting in Astana on Saturday (27), received the World Athlete of the Year honour for men’s field events at the World Athletics Awards in Monaco last month.

“As an athlete, you try not to take anything for granted because sport’s a very tough thing. You don’t know when it’s going to get tougher, and you never know what can happen in sports,” he said at the Awards, which celebrated performances in the No.1 Olympic sport.

“So, I try to enjoy the moments like this and really be appreciative for what I’ve done this year. I already knew I had had a good season, but when you get an award like this, it’s a nice cherry on top.”

Mondo Duplantis at the World Athletics Awards 2023

Mondo Duplantis at the World Athletics Awards 2023 (© Mattia Ozbot)

It was fitting that Duplantis should sound his note of caution in Monaco, given that it was in the Principality that he endured the most difficult moments of a 2023 season which, while it ended in triumph, produced some challenges.

Reflecting before the awards ceremony on a year that saw him produce world records at either end – 6.22m at Renaud Lavillenie’s All Star Perche meeting in Clermont-Ferrand in February and then 6.23m to win a third Wanda Diamond League title in Eugene in September – he recalled in particular the Monaco Diamond League meeting in July.

It was his last competition before the World Athletics Championships Budapest 23.

“It wasn’t the best day,” he said. “It was probably my worst one of the year, actually. I had some problems with my hamstring, it was quite tight.

“And I was starting to freak out a little bit. It wasn’t anything so major, of course, because I was able to compete well at the World Championships just a few weeks later. But I was a little bit freaked out as far as it being my last competition before the World Championships, so I didn’t want to do anything to strain my hamstring.

“I was just starting to get more tight in the competition, so I had to be more aggressive than I would have liked to be as far as the heights that I picked were concerned.

“I tried to pick a jump to try to win it, but it didn’t work out. Physically I wasn’t really quite there.”

Victory, in a season’s best of 5.92m, went to the US athlete who had taken silver behind him at the Tokyo Olympics and the previous year’s World Championships in Oregon, Chris Nilsen.

Duplantis, who had failed twice at 5.92m, sought a final clearance at 6.02m – but without success. Second and third places went respectively to two of his other main rivals, Ernest John Obiena of Philippines and Kurtis Marschall of Australia.

Mondo Duplantis in Budapest

Mondo Duplantis in Budapest (© Getty Images)

“When you are jumping, you are just very much alone,” Duplantis said. “It’s just you at the end of the runway and you are looking at the bar. You have to get over it and there’s nobody else on your side – it’s very much up to you.”

But in Monaco he was accompanied by his father and co-coach Greg, a 5.80m pole vaulter in his day and a source of excellent and timely advice.

“Pole vaulting is a tedious event,” Duplantis continued with a faint smile. “So, I have the time to go and talk out how I’m feeling. My father happened to be around in Monaco, so it was a good thing. Because sometimes it’s hard to think when you’re in competition mode. All you think about is winning. But sometimes you have to think about what the risk is.

“It’s kind of like having a caddy in golf. You talk through whatever decisions you are making, whether it’s a physical or a technical thing. So that’s one of the things we were debating in Monaco.”

History records that father and son managed the testing occasion well – with the world title being retained in Budapest on 26 August with a clearance of 6.10m as Obiena earned silver, equalling his area record of 6.00m, and Marschall and Nilsen shared bronze.

Duplantis has more major titles on his mind for 2024. After opening his season in Astana, he will compete at his own meeting, the Mondo Classic, in his home town of Uppsala on 6 February, followed by a return to Lavillenie’s meeting in Clermont-Ferrand.

Then he will seek to retain his title at the World Athletics Indoor Championships Glasgow 24 that will run from 1-3 March in Glasgow’s Emirates Arena, where Duplantis set his second world record of 6.18m in 2020.

“I’m going to have a schedule like last year of just four indoor competitions, keeping it pretty short and sweet,” he said. “So, that’s nice. Only just a few competitions but I get to really attack them.

“I had more bumps in the road in 2023 than in 2022. There were some competitions, like the one in Monaco, where I had some problems with my body and I worked through that.

“But, overall, I think I had some good performances when I needed to have them, and that’s the most important thing. But there is more consistency to be found and I’ll see if I can improve that outdoors, and I think there are better jumps to be had in that regard.

“Overall, it was really good – but next year’s the most important for a track and field athlete of course with the Paris Olympics. So that’s the time I need things to be… really good.”

Credit: World Athletics

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