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Swedish pole vaulter Armand Duplantis defends title at world championships

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Even though he'd captured yet another gold medal, Swedish pole vaulter Armand Duplantis wanted more. He always does.

Before leaving the stage at world championships on Saturday, the vaulter known as “Mondo” had one request — raise the bar. He wanted three cracks at breaking his world record mark, the one he keeps breaking again and again.

It didn't happen. He was just too drained on a muggy night. Still, it made for great theater and after Duplantis rose from the mat following his final attempt, he faced the crowd and took a bow.

Duplantis added a second straight world title by clearing 6.10 meters (20 feet), holding off runner-up Ernest John Obiena of the Philippines. Kurtis Marschall of Australia and American Christopher Nilsen, shared bronze.

“It was great fun," Duplantis said.

For him, anyway, the reigning Olympic champion heading into Paris next summer.

“Are you ever going to let us win?” Marschall cracked.

Duplantis gave his competitors a glimmer of hope when he said he's thinking of switching to the long jump.

Of course, he was joking.

The 23-year-old who grew up in Louisiana, went to LSU and competes for his mom’s home country of Sweden has taken his sport to new heights. It's reflected in the performances at worlds. All four of the medal winners had to clear at least 5.95 (19-6 1/4) just to bring home some hardware, the first time that's happened at worlds in the event.

His top rivals agree on the same thing — the presence of Duplantis elevates pole vaulting.

“Honestly, it’s a privilege to be out there with the guy because he’s pushing the sport to a place that it’s never been before,” Marschall said. “We wouldn’t want to be in any other year of pole vault.”

Duplantis has made it look so effortless, too, sort of like the pole vaulting legend himself, Sergey Bubka. Told that Bubka once won six straight world titles, Duplantis just smiled.

“I think I have a few more to go, it sounds like, before I get to six,” Duplantis said. “I’ll probably worry about three, after three maybe four, before I start getting a little bit too far ahead of myself.”

Like Bubka before him, Duplantis is a record-breaking machine. He’ has topped his own mark five more times since taking the record from Renaud Lavillenie of France in February 2020.

Last year, in the very last jump of the very last event going on at worlds in Oregon, he moved his mark to 6.21 (20-3). Earlier this year, he raised it again to 6.22. He gave 6.23 (20-4) a go Saturday but didn't have anything left after a draining night in which he hit all six of his jumps before his world-record attempt.

“Today never really felt like a world-record competition,” Duplantis said. “It was more a pure competition and that’s how it can be.”

Duplantis has been training for moments like this his entire. Growing up in Lafayette, Louisiana, his family had a pole vault setup in the backyard, complete with a runway.

His life has been well-documented, too, with a feature film made about his called, “ Born to Fly.

The sport is always looking for the next big thing, someone to step up and dominate like Usain Bolt used to do in the sprints. Not only dominate but serve up some riveting TV.

Could a pole vaulter assume that sort of role?

“I can understand why people would want to watch pole vaulting because I think it's super cool and exotic,” Duplantis recently said. "As far as everything else, I just try to jump as high as I possibly can and I keep trying to push the barriers of what’s possible for a pole vaulter.

“As long as I’m doing that, then I think I’m doing my job.”

His competitors certainly appreciate the attention he brings to the event.

“It’s cool to see Mondo jump high," Nilsen said. “But it’s cool to see the exposure he has on the world.”

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