"I've always believed that I could be the best in the world." Sense of reality.

"Mondo", as everyone calls him, is objectively the best pole vaulter in the world.

In September last year, twenty years old, he jumped 6.15 meters in the Olympic Stadium in Rome, and he celebrated this as a new record, although the world association evaluates indoor and stadium performances together and has therefore led Duplantis as a world record holder since February 2020.

Michael Reinsch

Correspondent for sports in Berlin.

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At that time, Duplantis had flown 6.17 and 6.18 meters over the course of seven days. But in Rome he did not surpass the record of his friend and competitor Renaud Lavillenie, and did not jump under the roof of the hall. In the Eternal City, Mondo surpassed Sergej Bubka from 1994, the pole vault master at the height of his ability, who had set the world record for 26 years at 6.14 meters on a mild July evening in Sestrière.

Bubka, 57 years old and has lived in Monaco for decades, is still the benchmark in pole vaulting today. Especially for Duplantis. “Like Bubka, I want to reach the next level in his time, something great, legendary. I want to win more Olympic victories than him, more world championships, ”he says. “I want to achieve things that people cannot imagine.” He wants to jump 6.20 meters high and beyond: “into the twenties”. When it comes to the number of Olympic victories, the big, old Ukrainian should be achievable: He was successful in Seoul in 1988 alone, wearing the jersey of the Soviet Union. Is likely to surpass six world titles if Duplantis starts winning in Eugene (Oregon) next year - in Doha 2019 he was second behind Sam Kendricks, who will miss the competition in Tokyo due to a corona infection -,in the best case, need until 2033. But 35 world records, like those Bubka set, inch by inch, in the hall and in the stadium? “It's going to be tough,” admits Duplantis.

The young man from Lafayette, Louisiana, who competes in international competitions for Sweden, his mother's homeland, is currently fully geared towards the Olympics. “The biggest dream of my childhood is to win a gold medal at the Olympics,” he said on the phone. “This dream is the one that has come back most often since I was a kid: to be on the podium, first. Olympia - that's where I always wanted to go. "

Little Mondo swung his way through the living room on a broomstick for the first time when he was three years old, and when he was seven he set his first age-class record. At twelve he watched Lavillenie's Olympic victory in London, and at sixteen he saw Thiago Braz da Silva win the gold medal in front of his Brazilian audience in Rio. “And of course I saw Usain Bolt break the sprint records and pull off his revolutionary show,” recalls Duplantis. “That's what I want too: to do my best at the Olympics, because this is the most important moment.” He doesn't hesitate for a moment to concretize his hopes: “Maybe I'll have a Usain Bolt moment. That would be cool. ”He is in the best shape of his life, Duplantis assures before his Olympic premiere this Tuesday."I expect to jump six meters, but I don't expect to be alone in a competition," he says: "Someone always comes and has the day of their life."

Quite a few see in the eloquent young man, who exudes joy and friendliness before and after the competitions and even in them, the face of athletics, one of the athletes who make one of the most complex disciplines look easy and fun.

Like a pea that you shoot through the cafeteria with a plastic spoon, Greg Duplantis, father and trainer, explained his son's ability to catapult himself to the highest heights with particularly long and hard sticks. You can't tell from the strength and speed of the young athlete. At the start he is superior to all competitors, and when he jokes that he is a candidate for the Swedish sprint relay, he replies: “I think about that more than you can imagine.” Speed ​​translates into height . Duplantis trains intensively for this. "If I ran a hundred meters, I could undercut 10.50 seconds," he is sure. Then there is his fearlessness. There is no doubt about the approach. "I'm so sure of what I'm doing that I don't hesitate in the least," he says:"This helps."

Does he want to be one of the stars of Tokyo in 2021? He doesn't worry about that, replies the high-flyer. “I know that I can offer people something spectacular,” he says. "But you don't have a title until you go out and get it, until you show that you deserve it." His subject is to jump as high as he can. "Everything else arises."