Pole vault star reveals near-miss with COVID-19 positive Kendricks

Agence France-Presse
Pole vault star reveals near-miss with COVID-19 positive Kendricks
Sweden's Armand Duplantis competes in the men's pole vault qualification during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo on July 31, 2021.
Ben Stansall / AFP

TOKYO – Pole vault world record-holder Armand Duplantis on Saturday revealed how fate intervened to help him avoid a potentially ruinous meeting with COVID-19-positive rival Sam Kendricks at the Tokyo Olympics.

Duplantis, speaking after he sailed through qualification into the final, said he was "freaked out" by Kendricks' positive test, and that he only missed a coffee appointment with the American because a conversation with his girlfriend overran.

Two-time world champion Kendricks and Argentina's German Chiaraviglio were both withdrawn from the Games after testing positive.

"It's so sad because Sam was in really good shape and he always jumps high at a championships, so basically there is a medal spot free now," said the Swede.

"I was going to meet with him in the Olympic Village and have a coffee but I was speaking to my girlfriend for too long and missed it. So it's thanks to her that we weren't together."

Three members of Australia's athletics contingent are isolating after being designated close contacts of Kendricks, and the country's entire track and field spent two hours in precautionary isolation before being released.

Duplantis was one of 14 men to go through to Tuesday's final after clearing 5.75 meters at Tokyo's Olympic Stadium. 

The 21-year-old, known as "Mondo", had one blip at 5.50m, but will be odds-on favorite to claim Olympic gold.

Duplantis predicted that the Olympic record of 6.03, set by Brazil's Thiago Braz in the 2016 Rio Olympics, could well be broken in Tokyo.

"I'm just going to go 110% for it no matter what," he said. "I just need to 'do me'."

He added: "I want to win the gold, that's been the dream since I was a little kid, being on top of the podium.

"It's an important moment for me. Basically my whole life has built up to this moment and I've wanted to be here since I was three years old jumping out in my parents' backyard."

France's Renaud Lavillenie, the 2012 gold medalist who won silver in Rio, did not make it easy for himself, failing twice at his entry height of 5.50m before going over at the third attempt.

"I really had no idea about my shape before coming here but I had to push very hard to get into the final," said Lavillenie, who sustained a sprained ankle earlier this month.

Lavillenie eyes podium
There was no such luck for Poland's Pawel Wojciechowski, the world champion in 2011, who bailed out at the same height.

Joining Duplantis and Lavillenie will be reigning Olympic champion Braz.

Poland's Piotr Lisek and US pair Christopher Nilsen and Kc Lightfoot also went through along with Ernest Obiena, bidding to win the Philippines' first track and field Olympic medal in 85 years.

Duplantis is the only man to have gone over six meters this year, but there are four through who have reached that milestone outdoors at some stage in their careers.

Kendricks would have added to that tally, his absence opening up a very late call of duty for Matt Ludwig, who placed fourth in the US Olympic trials.

Ludwig missed the cut for the final, with a best of 5.50m — perhaps understandable given that qualification came just 20 hours after he was informed a spot was free.

"It's been fast-moving," he said of a whirlwind day. "There have been mixed emotions... amid drop-of-the-hat stress, logistics.

"I didn't have a uniform before leaving for the stadium this morning.

"I woke up at 4 a.m. and made some phone calls to land a uniform... it ended up being odds and ends at times."

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