Duplantis hoping Brussels stars align in record hunt
by Luke PHILLIPS
A roaring crowd, the promise of good weather and a competitive field all make for an enticing line-up when Olympic champion Armand Duplantis takes to the runway of the men's pole vault at Friday's Diamond League meet.
Some 28,000 spectators are expected at the King Baudouin Stadium amid eased Covid-19 restrictions in the Belgian capital, something Duplantis said all athletes would appreciate.
"I want the crowd to have a lot of energy behind me," said the US-born Swede, who won gold in Tokyo in an empty stadium.
Throw in a forecast for hot, sunny conditions and Duplantis was beaming, with thoughts once again turning to talk of bettering his own world record of 6.18 metres, set indoors in Glasgow.
"I think it's a combination of everything," he said at a pre-meeting press conference when asked what was needed to help him break the mark he set last year, when he also established his best outdoors mark of 6.15m, in Rome.
"If you want to do something like the world record you need something close to perfect... especially in these outdoor competitions," he said.
"I want good, hot weather. Hopefully the wind is pretty dead and consistent for us to be able to get used to it and get a nice rhythm on the runway."
Duplantis has a season's best of 6.10m, but routinely attempts a new world record after assuring victory, as he did in the Olympic final.
For his rivals, it is simply a question of playing catch-up. His closest rival in Friday's field is American Christopher Nilsen, who vaulted 5.97m to win silver in Tokyo.
- Olympic magnitude -
Duplantis went into the Tokyo Games as one of the stand-out athletes and the 21-year-old did not disappoint.
"I didn't realise the magnitude of the Olympics until it actually happened," he said, explaining that the Games' postponement by a year because of the coronavirus pandemic had raised expectations.
"There was a lot of a lot of stress, a lot of pressure, everybody was talking about it," he said.
"When it finally happened and I was able to go back to Sweden after I was able to accomplish the goal and be able to bring that (gold) back it was a really surreal feeling.
"It was really crazy, even just walking on the street you can feel how big of a deal it was for everybody. I've accomplished some decent things and I've broken old records but nothing compares to the reaction that I got."
Duplantis concluded: "You don't know when the days are going to come when everything's going to line up perfectly.
"But I feel like I'm in good shape. I know what I have to do to go out there and to jump high... I'm going to do my best, that's for sure."
© 2021 AFP