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March 9, 2022

Mondo Duplantis Highlights On SportsCenter, Please!

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Track and Field Twitter blew up this week when a rare moment of ESPN covering the sport began percolating onto timelines. The catch is that it wasn’t for Mondo Duplantis’s new world record of 6.19m, set in Belgrade on Monday evening.

The highlight in question was of the University of Houston’s Chris Sampy, who recently cleared 5.47m to qualify for this weekend’s NCAA Championships. The confusing part of the post was that this was the third time SportsCenter has shared it this year — it’s a video of Sampy from high school! While the All-American Sampy is certainly no slouch, it almost feels like the social media team at ESPN just remembered that pole vault is a thing, and tossed up the first video they could find of it.

The SportsCenter account has 39.7 million followers and the general public’s comments fall on the spectrum somewhere between, ‘has anyone ever impaled themselves doing this sport?’ and ‘this has to be one of the hardest things to do in ANY sport!’’ Launching oneself over twenty feet in the air is objectively cool and is a relatively easy thing to appreciate. Unlike other disciplines, no idiot sitting on their couch watches and thinks they can do it better. Pole Vault is captivating and beautiful to watch…

…And speaking of captivating and beautiful pole vault, how about Mondo!

This was the third time in Duplantis’s career that he raised the bar to break the world record. On a ruler or when stacked on top of 600+ others, a single centimeter doesn’t seem like much. But the execution and precision to make it that little bit higher at these heights is significant. Plus, it’s no secret that athletes like to go up a little bit at a time to cash in on bonuses. This signature move was trademarked by Serhiy Bubka who broke the world record on 35 occasions between 1984 and 1994.

Most events don’t allow for incremental attempts in the way that the pole vault (and high jump) do. (For example, I technically attempted to break the world record in the mile every time I lined up, but never had to announce that intention to the world. Shocking, right? Probably not what you expected to hear if you ever watched me go out in near last place, through the first quarter in 59 seconds.)

Mondo’s past two years have been a lesson in perseverance. No, it’s not like we expected the 22-year old superstar to quit. But, since clearing 6.18m, Mondo has made 54 attempts at improvement. Don’t be surprised if the refractory period between now and his next WR is a bit shorter. Next week he’ll be launching himself from Belgrade’s famously springy runway at the World Indoor Championships.

Mondo’s best competition will likely come from Christopher Nilsen, who has twice broken the American Record this indoor season. While the Olympic silver medalist has boosted his personal best from 5.97m to 6.05m, Mondo is 36-2 dating back to the 2020 season.

One last thing: please manage your expectations about ESPN covering the matchup — we have a much better shot at getting a fourth repost of a grainy video from a local high school invitational in Texas.

The Lap Count is a weekly newsletter delivered on Wednesday mornings that recap all the fun action from the world of track & field. It’s a great way to keep your finger on the pulse of the sport. There is a lot happening and this newsletter is a great way to stay up to date with all the fun. Subscribe today.

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