Sweden’s pole vault world record holder Armand ‘Mondo’ Duplantis believes his love of golf has helped him become a better athlete ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
With the coronavirus causing the cancellation or postponement of most outdoor events last year, including the Games in Japan, the American-born vaulter turned to the golf course to blow off some steam.
Duplantis is passionate about the sport and is pretty good at it too, playing off a handicap of 13. As a 21-year-old who had his world turned upside down by the pandemic, he found a new focus on the greens of Louisiana.
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“After the 2020 indoor season ended in March last year, all my competitions were postponed, including the Olympics,” Duplantis told Golf Digest.
“So my friends and I were looking for something to do. There were two courses open near my home in Louisiana, so we gave golf a go. Before we knew what was going on we were playing five times a week. We fell in love with it.”
Duplantis, who was born in the US to an American father and Swedish mother, did not completely step back from vaulting. But his training base at Louisiana State University was closed down, so he was forced to train in his dad’s back garden.
“My father built a track for me, with a pit and a mat,” he said.
“Anyway, I went back there. It wasn’t high-quality stuff, but it was enough to keep a pole in my hands. My event is just like golf in that you have to practise a lot. It’s so specific, it needs time.”
This year, Duplantis has been back in competition and kicked off his Olympic year by winning gold at the European Indoor Championships in March. Outdoors, he last week vaulted 6.10m in the Netherlands at the FBK Games - just short of his outdoor record of 6.15m.
He is certain that there are elements of golf which have made him a better vaulter, especially when it comes to the mental side of sport.
“If I’m feeling fast and strong, I have good results with a pole in my hands,” he says.
“But not necessarily in golf. No matter how I’m feeling, the ball can go anywhere. Rhythm is so important. When I’m vaulting, I need to get pumped up to run faster. But that’s not really what you want in golf.
On the course, you have to stay cool. You can’t get too excited by the good shots or bummed out by the bad ones. You have to find a middle ground. And you have to look forward in both sports. What just happened doesn’t matter. It’s all about the next jump or the next shot. Short-term memory is key.
It is possible that this season we will see a different Duplantis on the pole vault runway, taking the competition more seriously from the start. He says golf has taught him to make a full effort in from the first attempt - rather than fall back on the security that two more are coming.
“Every shot in golf is like my third attempt and golf has helped me focus in vaulting,” he said.
“I’ve been guilty of not taking my first and even second attempts too seriously. Knowing you have a third attempt is not always a good thing. It doesn’t allow as much breathing room as you think.
“So golf has helped me there. Every shot matters. And now I take that attitude into every vault. I know now not to take any attempt lightly.”
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