Armand Duplantis at the pre-meet press conference in Monaco (© Philippe Fitte)
World pole vault record-holder Armand Duplantis has had to rely on his “three angels” to allow him to compete in the Monaco Diamond League meeting at Stade Louis II tomorrow.
With the limited flights available to get him from his Swedish base to Monaco, he could not find a flight that could take his poles, so his mother (and coach) Helena, her sister and another friend volunteered to drive across Europe with the poles.
The three women completed a 25-hour road trip to deliver his equipment and Duplantis said he was very grateful for their assistance.
“I have three angels by my side and I don’t know what I would do without them,” he declared.
With his tools of trade now at hand, Duplantis predicted tomorrow’s competition would produce “something special” as he faces off against the world champion Sam Kendricks and the Olympic champion Thiago Braz.
“When we get together special things happen,’’ he said.
“I think tomorrow will be special, we’ll have a great competition against each other, especially since it’s been what feels like such a long time. I’m really excited to get out there and start getting after each other again.’’
In the months after Duplantis set a new world record of 6.18m indoors in Glasgow in February, he spent more time playing golf than training due to lockdown conditions at his family home in Louisiana, but he was able to resume training when he returned to Sweden in June.
With seven competition lined up between tomorrow and the Rome Diamond League meeting on 17 September, he’s hopeful that he can return to the rareified air of six metres-plus during this short outdoor season.
“I feel like I turn into a different person when it comes to a competition. I don’t train as well technically in practice. Competition is where I really have a lot of adrenalin and motivation. It’s the best training for me. I am a competitor and if the best competitors are here I am going to raise up my game.”
Warholm: 'I am going to run tomorrow’s race like it’s my last race this year'
Fellow Scandinavian, Norway’s world 400m hurdles champion Karsten Warholm is similarly eager to compete in what will be his first race in his preferred event since his triumph in Doha almost a year ago.
He revealed he was so desperate to compete that he contacted the Monaco organisers and pleaded with them to put his event on the programme, aided by a personal sponsor.
“I have been training really really good, which is why I am looking forward to getting a race in,’’ he said.
“It’s hard to tell if I am going to run really fast but, you know me, I will try. I am going to run tomorrow’s race like it’s my last race this year. It’s been a long time and this is what I live for.’’
Even so, Warholm almost withdrew from the event last week due to the tightening travel restrictions across Europe as the incidence of Covid-19 rises in some countries.
“The only reason we had to think twice about it was because of the quarantine, but we took a closer look and it showed that Monaco has almost no cases of the virus and it’s really safe and we felt we could take all the precautions that we needed to to have safe travel,’’ Warholm said.
“It’s also important for our sport. All the other sports are starting to get up and running and I think it’s important for track and field to do the same. We have to inspire the young children and other athletes and we have to show that it’s possible to do this in a safe way, so I feel like it’s important for me to be here with all the other athletes and get through with a safe event.’’
Rojas: 'I can’t wait to get on the track and give the best of myself'
Like Duplantis, World triple jump champion Yulimar Rojas of Venezuela was in stunning form indoors, setting a new world indoor record of 15.43m before the pandemic put the brakes on her momentum, but she’s determined to get back on track in Monaco.
“This season, we decided to focus on competing in very few meetings, the season will be very short and my first outing will be here in Monaco tomorrow but I am determined that however short the season will be it will be a really good one and I want to start with a bang,’’ she said.
“I feel very well and I can’t wait to get on the track and give the best of myself. The world record (15.50m outdoors) is something that we all know is within reach, however I am in no hurry whatsoever.”
“My aim is to go further than my indoor PB and should that mean a new world outdoor record well then that would be even nicer.”
World 1500m and 10,000m champion Sifan Hassan faces arguably the biggest test of the meeting in the women’s 5000m event, where she will meet 5000m world champion Hellen Obiri and 3000m steeplechase world champion Beatrice Chepkoech.
The Dutchwoman confessed she was not in the shape she was last year (when she set a world mile record at the Herculis meeting), after spending almost two months cooling her heels during a strict lockdown in Ethiopia in June and July.
“I need some more time (to train) but this is Monaco,’’ she said. “I just want to race. I am really excited and grateful to have this race and it will give me a lot of motivation for training.”
Nicole Jeffery for World Athletics