All bets for the Olympic pole vault title are off if Sweden’s Armand Duplantis maintains - let alone improves on - the scintillating form he showed on his season’s debut at the PSD Bank Meeting in Dusseldorf on Tuesday (6) night.
After two attempts at his third height of the competition at 5.70m, Duplantis cleared the next succession of heights in a manner not too dissimilar to his run to the title at the Berlin 2018 European Athletics Championships some eighteen months ago when he was only a teenager.
Duplantis cleared 5.80m and then world leading heights of 5.90m and 5.95m on his first attempts with nonchalant ease before requiring two attempts at the next height of 6.00m - a height which saw his great rival, the two-time world champion Sam Kendricks from the United States, depart from the competition with a mark of 5.80m.
Duplantis didn’t attempt a world record on that night in Berlin but the 20-year-old has benefitted from two more seasons of winter training since that breakthrough win and he asked the officials to fix the bar at 6.17m - one centimetre in excess of Frenchman Renaud Lavillenie’s near six-year-old world record.
This was the first time the Swede has attempted the world record and while respectful of the height, he was by no means overawed by it. His first attempt at 6.17m suggested the height is within his capacity and he almost succeeded on his second attempt. Duplantis brushed the crossbar on the ascent - not sufficiently enough to dislodge it - but it was his right elbow that knocked the bar off the pegs, much to his frustration.
Taking full advantage of the five minutes allowed in between vaults, Duplantis regained his composure for a third attempt at a prospective world record height but his second attempt remained the best of the three.
"I thought it was possible. That second attempt at 6.17m was as good as I could have expected. Training's been going really well. I feel very fit, very in shape. You don't think that everything's going to be put together in your first meet just because you're physically fit. But it came together. It came together nicely, it came together at a good time. I'm excited about the rest of the season," he told World Athletics after the competition.
Duplantis’ next competition will be the Copernicus Cup in Torun on 8 February. He is also confirmed for Lievin on 19 February and the All-Star Perche by Quartus in Clermont-Ferrand on 23 February, the meeting organised by Lavillenie.
Lavillenie broke the world record in Donetsk under the watchful eye of Sergey Bubka who founded that meeting in his home city. With Duplantis in such redoubtable early season form, could history repeat at the end of the month?
"It almost brought a tear to my eye 'cause you're looking at it and you think 'this is it, this is the world record'. My whole life I wanted to be the world record-holder. I didn't make it of course, but just to be attempting it is a cool moment." – @mondohoss600#WorldIndoorTour pic.twitter.com/tKrhM3qk2c
— World Athletics (@WorldAthletics) February 4, 2020
Victories and world leading marks for the two Filips
On a memorable night for European athletes, Filip Mihaljevic broke the Croatian shot put record – and landed a world lead in the process.
A former European U23 champion, Mihaljevic reached 21.52m to break the national record of 21.13m set by former world bronze medallist Stipe Zunic at this same event two years ago. He also eclipsed the world lead of 21.23m which Czech Republic’s Tomas Stanek had established in Nehvizdy last month.
Stanek was third this time, with 20.89m, with Poland’s Konrad Bukowiecki in second with 20.92m but the star of the show was Mihaljevic, going beyond 21 metres on four occasions and approaching his overall personal best of 21.84m.
Filip Ingebrigtsen is the only member of the famous family running indoors this winter and his name is now at the top of the world lists after a brilliant victory in the 1500m in a personal best time on his season’s debut.
A brilliant last 400m of 57.09 took him to a commanding win in 3:36.32 ahead of Belgium's Ismael Debjani, second in 3:39.05, with Kenya's Vincent Kibet third in 3:39.49.
Younger brother Jakob triumphed here a year ago and Filip kept it in the family in style by smashing his lifetime best of 3:38.62 by over two seconds.
Home victory for Eckhardt, Reuther continues to ascend
A capacity home crowd was treated to a world lead by one of their stars as Germany’s Neele Eckhardt won the triple jump with a second round lifetime best performance of 14.17m.
Eckhardt defeated a fine line-up which included Portugal’s former European champion Patricia Mamona, second with 14.09m, and Lithuanian Dovile Kilty, third with 14.06m.
The home crowd was also treated to another outstanding run in the men’s 800m by Marc Reuther, who is having the indoor season of his life.
Having recorded the second fastest time ever indoors by a German with his 1:45.39 at the Erfurt International on Sunday, Reuther was celebrating again – and this time after defeating multiple 800m gold medallist Adam Kszczot.
The Polish star had won here in Dusseldorf on the last seven occasions but Reuther, who ran aggressively from the front, ensured it was his night as he had too much in the home straight to triumph in 1:46.13 from Kszczot in 1:46.42 and Amel Tuka from Bosnia & Herzegovina in 1:47.29.
There was success for Poland in the opening race as Marcin Lewandowski won in 1:47.23 from South Africa’s Tshepo Tshite (1:47.52).
Ujah back to his best with equal lifetime best in 60m
Great Britain’s Chijindu Ujah demonstrated his return to form with two blistering performances in the 60m.
After an injury plagued 2019 season,Ujah looks ready to make a big impression again this year. He won his heat in 6.55 and then took the final in the quicker time, matching his lifetime best of 6.53 which he set in 2018.
A member of the British quartet that won the 4x100m relay world title in London in 2017 – either side of his two European relay titles – he will be aiming for not only a place in their Olympic foursome, but to be in the individual event in Tokyo.
It was a fine night also for European indoor champion Jan Volko as he equalled his Slovakian record by finishing third in 6.57, less than a blink of an eyelid behind US athlete Brandon Carnes, second in 6.56.
The two 400m finals provided a double success for Europe. Lisanne de Witte from the Netherlands won the opener in 52.30 from Poland's European champion Justyna Swiety-Ersetic (52.49) and Ukraine’s Tetyana Melnyk (53.32) with Switzerland's Lea Sprunger taking the second race in 52.50.