Armand Duplantis will make his 2020 domestic debut in Gothenburg next Saturday and the countdown to the competition has begun for the Swedish superstar with mounting excitement for his first appearance on home soil since the Finnkampen match in Stockholm last August.
The pole vault world record holder and reigning European champion will face some useful opposition in the shape of Poland’s 2019 world championships bronze medallist Piotr Lisek – they are familiar foes having faced each other 20 times since 2017 with the head-to-head count currently 10-9 in favour of Duplantis with one tie – Belgium's Ben Broeders and Norway’s 2019 European U20 champion Pal Haugen Lillefosse.
After his stellar indoor campaign, with world records of 6.17m and 6.18m in Torun and Glasgow respectively, Duplantis will be looking to build on his outdoor opener of 5.86m when winning at Oslo’s Impossible Games earlier this month.
“It is still difficult to understand what is happening right now. After all, it was basically just my mom (Helena) in the stands, and it felt almost a bit ghostly in the arena,” he reflected after his outing in the Norwegian capital, performing in an almost-empty stadium born of necessity in the current situation.
“It made it a little harder to get into the competition feeling. It's just mental, but it was a little harder to get started as you normally get energy from the audience.”
Circumstances will be similar in the famous Ullevi Stadium, a sporting centre piece of Sweden’s second city which was renovated ahead of the 2006 European Athletics Championships with the spruce up at the time including a new Sportflex Super X track installed by European Athletics Green Inspiration Partner Mondo.
However, with three additional weeks of training under his belt since the Impossible Games and no residual jet-lag after his move from his home in Louisiana, USA to his summer training base in Uppsala, about an hour’s drive north of Stockholm with his mother hailing from the area, he will be hoping to recapture a modicum of his winter’s form in Gothenburg.
The Swedish all-comers record of 6.10m by Sergey Bubka set in Malmo in 1991 might be a tall order at this stage of the season, and factoring in the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on his training and competition,s but the Ullevi Stadium record of 5.93m by France’s Romain Mesnil in 1999 must well be within his grasp once again, especially after vaulting 5.90m at the venue last summer.
Duplantis has been preparing for his forthcoming competitions in the homely Uppsala friidrottsarena, a 1000-seater stadium with which has also been surfaced with a top-line Mondo product, a Sportflex Super X 720 track.
"Training is much easier here in Sweden. Everything is closed in the US, two weeks ago a high school opened right next to me where I could run but nothing more. (For me) Uppsala is one of the best training facilities in the world,” Duplantis told Swedish media upon his arrival in Uppsala earlier this month.
“Here in Uppsala, I have the best conditions. It played a big part in the decision (to base himself in the city).
“Since the first time I came to Uppsala, it felt like I had a connection to the city and that it was a city where I could think of living in. It's hard to describe the feeling but it feels right and like this was the right place to be.”
He has been a member of the Uppsala IF athletics club since 2016 and sometimes in the past turned out for them in club competitions. Despite his US high school upbringing and somewhat shaky spoken Swedish, it has all helped Duplantis being adopted by the locals as one of their own
Among his future competitions for the summer, he has told local media that he plans to compete at this year’s Swedish Championships which this year also take place in Uppsala during the second weekend of August.
It will be his first actual competition on the track since he was 13 and jumped what was then a personal best of 4.15m in 2013. How times have changed!
Armand Duplantis will make his domestic debut in Gothenburg next Saturday and the countdown to the competition has begun for the Swedish superstar with mounting excitement for his first appearance on home soil since the Finnkampen match in Stockholm last August.
"A brand new pole box is set for the Swedish Championships this summer and a new pole jump mat has also been purchased by the municipality, it will be fun to see him jump this summer," said Uppsala IF's Sports Manager Henrik Wennberg. Tickets may be at a premium even if restrictions on spectator numbers are eased should Duplantis confirm his appearance.
The Gothenburg competition next Saturday is the start of a hectic ten days in the domestic spotlight for Duplantis.
Although it has already been announced that he is this year’s recipient, in the wake of his two world records in February, Duplantis will on 14 July be the official recipient of Sweden’s highest sporting accolade, the Victoria Prize.
Awarded to a Swedish sportsman or woman each year since 1979 on the occasion of Crown Princess Victoria's birthday on July 14, Duplantis becomes the first athlete since Susanna Kallur won in 2008, beating off competition from the country’s top ice hockey and Nordic skiing stars.
Sandwiched in between will be a competition in Karlstad, a World Continental Tour / European Bronze meeting, on 8 July.