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Athletics

How hard can it be to jump just a little higher, Mondo Duplantis?

Being the greatest pole vaulter in history demands constant dedication. Eight-time record-breaking Armand Duplantis gives an exclusive insight into his taxing daily life.
Written by Hanna Jonsson
7 min readPublished on
The difference between 6.24 metres, the current world record in pole vaulting, and 6.25m is just one single centimetre. That's the width of a standard pencil. How hard can it be?
Well, just ask Armand 'Mondo' Duplantis. He's gone higher than any other pole vaulter in history, not once, but eight times. From 6.17m back in 2020 to 6.24m in April 2024, each centimetre astronomically more difficult than the last. To keep going even higher, Duplantis needs to push both his own limits as well as the boundaries of the sport. To him, one centimetre is not just ten millimetres, it's a whole new dimension.
The Swedish-American athlete keeps searching for the next piece of the puzzle in order to unlock new heights. But, at the end of the day, despite his extraordinary achievements, he's still human. So, how high can he actually go?
Watch the brand new documentary The Next Centimeter in the player at the top of the page for an exclusive glimpse into the world and mindset of one of this century's most extraordinary athletes and discover what it takes to keep breaking new ground in the world of sports.
Armand Duplantis seen at the Mondo Classic in Uppsala Sweden on February 6, 2024.

Armand 'Mondo' Duplantis is truly pushing the boundaries of pole vaulting

© Richard Ström/Red Bull Content Pool

01

Power combo: Determination and a winning mindset

The world’s greatest athletes seem to have a relentless drive to keep pushing boundaries and a hunger to keep improving themselves. At the same time, they have belief that they can actually do it. They believe that they can become the world's best. York-Peter Klöppel, the Head of Mental Performance at Red Bull's Athlete Performance Center, explains that it's the combination of the two that creates world-class athletes and drives them to keep beating world records.
“Very soon after a world record, they start thinking about the next goal. What is next? How can I improve even more?” says Klöppel.
An image of a young Armand Duplantis holding a pole.

Even at a young age, Duplantis was hooked on pole vaulting

© Duplantis Family

Enter Duplantis. From a young age, he's wanted to become the best in the world and, with hard work and determination, he's achieved just that. After he broke the world record the first time, he quickly started thinking about the next. And then the next after that. Today, having broken the world record seven times, he thinks the challenge has just started.
"I love the challenge and it doesn’t go away. It just gets harder and harder. The challenge, it seems, is really just starting," says Duplantis.
02

Striving for one more record-breaking centimetre

The word challenge is understating the magnitude of what Duplantis is doing. Jumping one centimetre higher is getting increasingly more difficult with each new record he breaks.
Duplantis reflects on its scale: "It's so marginal, but makes more of a difference than you can imagine” he says. “Even if it’s one centimetere, it gets to a certain point where you hit it and it suddenly becomes so much more difficult."
Being able to jump one more centimetre also symbolises improvement, that he is still progressing.
Armand Duplantis jumping at Mondo Classics, Uppsala, Sweden on February 2, 2023.

To get the perfect jump Duplantis needs everything to click on the day

© Richard Ström/Red Bull Content Pool

03

Sprint training helps propel Armand Duplantis's pole vaulting

For Duplantis to break the world record again, he needs to get the margins on his side. From perfectly executing everything on competition day to putting in the work ahead of the events.
"There are so many things I have to get better at to jump one centimetre higher: it seems little but adds up to something big," says Duplantis, who works hard at finding the perfect balance between the technical side of the sport and the physical training. Because to be a pole vaulter, you don’t just need the perfect technique, you also have to be "a sprinter, a long jumper and a gymnast."
Duplantis actually trains a lot like a sprinter, several times a week, as his focus lately has been on gaining speed on the runway. He also works on his technique, which, although extremely good, still needs adjustments and improvements. "Sometimes last year I was losing the timing and the feeling of the pole, and I keep searching for that smooth flow and feeling more one with the pole," he explains.
Armand Mondo Duplantis pole vaulting at the Mondo Classic Gala in Uppsala, Sweden on February 6, 2024.

Reaching speeds over 10 mps, Mondo's run-up is faster than ever

© Richard Ström

There are so many things I have to get better at to jump one centimetre higher
One major technical aspect is when the pole hits the back of the box and the energy from the run transfers upwards into the jump. "You have to have your arms as high as possible and come off the ground by jumping up into it. No one really does it perfectly and we always work on it," reveals Greg Duplantis, Armand Duplantis's father and technical coach.
04

The importance of building mental strength

To get the margins on Duplanti's side, it's not just about his physical preparations; he also has to be mentally strong. The body and mind need to work in balance for great things to happen.
Armand Duplantis of Sweden seen during the Belgrade Indoor Meeting in Belgrade, Serbia on March 7, 2022.

Mental preparation is just as important as the physical

© Predrag Vuckovic/Red Bull Content Pool

Klöppel explains: "It's really important to have the mental strength to blend out the noise when it matters. When athletes are on the start line, they have to be excited, but not too excited, in order to perform their best. They have to conserve their energy before a competition by not getting too excited too early, but then turn it on in the right moment.”
I keep an open mind and if I can put together everything in the right way, things can happen
It's shortly before the event that an athlete has to turn on the engine, focus and get tunnel vision at the task at hand. Their concentration levels have to peak at the right moment for optimum results. It's something that comes easier to some athletes than to others, but even for someone as mentally strong as Duplantis, it's still something he's had to learn over the years.
"I've progressed in a lot of ways since being a junior," says Duplantis. "I'm much more confident and that's something that comes with experience. As I jump more and put myself in high-pressure situations, you learn to control your body and your mind. Of course, I can get nervous before a big event, but as soon as I get on track I'm all good. I just want to let it rip."
Armand Duplantis seen at Weltklasse Zurich IAAF Diamond League, Zurich on September 8, 2022.

Pleasing fans one minute, breaking records the next

© Flo Hagena/Red Bull Content Pool

He's also learned that sport isn't about being perfect; it’s about being the best you can be on that specific day. “I've broken a world record when a week or so prior I've had tightness in my body and not been able to train. But things can happen and that’s when you need to keep having trust and confidence in your abilities," he adds.
05

How high can Duplantis go?

Klöppel believes that for athletes to be great, there has to be a symbiosis between drive and belief. When they have that, athletes can push themselves far beyond what others deem possible. Duplantis has both.
With eight world records, he's nowhere near done and his dad believes he can go as high as 6.40m. As far-fetched as that seems, Greg's prediction isn't taken out of thin air.
"I don't think he's at his peak right now. He's only 24 and pole vaulters typically peak in their late 20s to early 30s," says Greg, who competed in the pole vault and had a best of 5.80m. "He's still getting stronger and I think he's going to be better in four years than he is now. He's already jumping higher than anyone ever has and to predict how high he can jump is crazy. This probably does sound crazy, but I think he can get close to 6.40m. If not 6.40m. But it will require a lot of work."
And what does Duplantis think: "Improvement is harder to come by now, in every aspect, not just performance but all the little things. But I try not to put a limit on myself and what can be achieved. I keep an open mind and if I can put together everything in the right way, things can happen."

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Armand Duplantis

Swedish-American pole vaulter Armand Duplantis has been setting new standards since he was seven and is now a world-record holder.

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