In a championship defined by youthful excellence, Sweden’s Armand Duplantis produced one of the most spectacular performances in one of the highest quality major championship pole vault finals ever witnessed at the Berlin 2018 European Athletics Championships.
This is the first part of our 50 Golden Moments series which looks back at 50 classic moments from major European competitions to mark 50 years of European Athletics.
Duplantis has since taken the world record in the pole vault to 6.17m and then to 6.18m but his performance on the final night at the Olympic Stadium was every bit as impressive given the scale of the occasion and the fact that he was the youngest competitor in the final at just 18.
Having won world and European U20 titles over the previous twelve months, Duplantis made what could have been a costly first-time failure at 5.80m on his major senior final debut but the Swede catapulted himself into title contention with five immaculate first-time clearances all the way through to 6.05m, three of which broke significant milestones as well.
Duplantis cleared 5.95m to improve his lifetime best and world U20 record by two centimetres before becoming the youngest athlete in history to break the six metre-barrier. The final continued to unfold in spite of these superlatives from Duplantis though.
Competing as a neutral athlete, Russia’s Timur Morgunov matched Duplantis’ first-time clearance at 6.00m and Renaud Lavillenie was still battling away for his fourth European outdoor title having cleared 5.95m on his first attempt.
But Duplantis put the title beyond reach with his next vault of the final, soaring down the runway for the final time and wrapping himself around the bar which was perched at 6.05m to break not only his world U20 record for the third time but also the championship record held by Rodion Gataullin.
Morgunov didn’t flicker but Lavillenie embraced Duplantis, who collapsed face forward on the mat in sheer disbelief, in an act of genuine sportsmanship and friendship. After the competition, Duplantis revealed Lavillenie sent him a text message on the afternoon of the final, expressing his wish they would both finish together on the podium.
The final did continue although the spectacle petered out with Morgunov and Lavillenie stalling their remaining efforts at 6.05m. Never before had three athletes attempted 6.05m in the same competition and never before had an athlete so young won a men’s field event title at the European Championships.
“I don’t think there are any words in any languages to describe how I’m feeling,” said a speechless Duplantis after the final.
After gathering his thoughts, he continued: “At the time I wasn’t thinking about it was 6.05m; I was thinking it was five centimetres higher than what I just made and I had to make it if I wanted to win and be the only one on the podium at the top.”
The cameras focused on his father Greg throughout the final but Duplantis also gave generous credit to his mother Helena who shares the coaching duties with her husband. Helena was also trackside assuming the coaching duties again when Duplantis broke the world record for the first time in Torun, Poland on 8 February.
“I got emotional when I hugged my mum because she was there with me every day this year, she wrote all my workouts and she trained me every day this entire year. This was not my 6.05m, this was me and all my family. Just to be able to share it here with my mum and dad - I could have written it up any better,” said Duplantis.
Extended highlights of the pole vault final from Berlin 2018.