Vault sensation Duplantis facing winning conundrum

Luke PHILLIPS
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Sweden's Armand Duplantis, pictured August 12, 2018, has signed up on a scholarship with Louisiana State University in the United States, but a potential Diamond League cash windfall could jeopardise that

Swedish teenage pole vaulting prodigy Armand Duplantis will go for the Diamond League trophy at Friday's Diamond League meet in Brussels knowing full well he might not be able to pocket the $50,000 prize money.

The 18-year-old, who soared to a world junior record of 6.05 metres to win European gold in Berlin earlier this month, has signed up on a scholarship with Louisiana State University in the United States. A potential Diamond League cash windfall could well jeopardise that.

"I don't think I can immediately accept the money if I were to win," acknowledged Duplantis, known by his nickname "Mondo".

"I'm still on scholarship in college and my parents are getting together with the coaches to work out the plan ahead," he said.

"I don't know what I'm going to study yet!"

Coached by his American father (and former pole vaulter) Greg, Duplantis was a product of a track and field-crazy family which had their own vaulting apparatus in the garden, though he insists he was no "lab rat".

"I started pole vaulting when I was about four year," Duplantis said.

"A couple of years ago, I didn't expect to be competing at great events like this."

The six-time Louisiana state champion, who spent summers with his Swedish grandparents in Sweden, admitted his feats in Berlin, where he became the youngest athlete to win a field event at the Euros, had not quite sunk in.

"I can't get my head around it -- maybe after this meet and the season's over," he said.

"Going from 5.93 to 6.05 in 20 minutes, it's hard, but as an athlete you live for those special moments.

"It was a great night, for sure."

- Lavillenie the idol -

Come Friday, and Duplantis will find himself in an incredibly strong 12-man field that includes seven vaulters who have gone over the mythical six-metre barrier, not least France's world record holder Renaud Lavillenie.

"I went to train with him for two weeks this summer before the Paris Diamond League meet," Duplantis said.

"He's been my idol since he jumped six metres for the first time when I was nine. Being able to go training with him... it would have been a different result in Berlin if I hadn't done those two weeks."

Duplantis has racked up three podium placings in his Diamond League outings so far this season, in Stockholm, Paris and London.

"I've competed pretty well. But this meet is a little different from them. At championships it's about medals, but the most important thing here is the trophy. It's a bit 'win or nothing'," he said, predicting that Lavillenie's meet record of 5.96m set in 2013 could be under threat.

"It's going to be very difficult to win it. I think it's going to take a big height to win it.

"But I still feel like I'm in good shape. I was trying to peak at European championships, and I still feel good and think I can jump high. I don't know what that is, you've just got to take what the day throws at you."

China's Lijao Gong won the opening women's shot put trophy, throwing a best of 19.83 metres to win in a makeshift arena in Brussels' iconic Grand Place.

American Raven Saunders was second with 19.64m, while Germany's Schwanitz threw 19.50m for third spot.

Friday's action in the King Badouin II stadium -- featuring 12 Olympic, 28 world and 16 European champions -- will see American Ronnie Baker attempting to better his personal best of 9.87 seconds in the 100m.