DOHA (Reuters) - Teenager Armand Duplantis is near the pinnacle of the pole vaulting world but the reigning European champion says he would not be where he is without it being a family affair.
The 19-year-old Swedish-American has cleared 6.00 metres twice this year and is a medal contender at the world athletics championships that begin in Doha on Friday, but he says he owes his success to his parents.
His father Greg, a former American pole vaulter, helps Armand with technique, while his mother Helena, a former Swedish heptathlete, works on his conditioning.
“My father might have got me to 5.80 m, but I definitely give just as much credit, and maybe even more, to my mother, who got me to 6.00m,” Duplantis told Reuters.
Duplantis said that over the past four years, he has trained with his mother around five days a week, spending one day with his father to sharpen his technique.
He said his parents had helped him design a training plan that would allow him to pace himself and peak during the world championships, which are being held exceptionally late in the athletics season.
“I didn’t compete in that many meets earlier in the year,” he said. “That was kind of the plan, not to burn myself out too early because I need to peak in October, which is a little strange.”
Growing up in the U.S. state of Louisiana, Duplantis dabbled in baseball and soccer. Pole vaulting eventually eclipsed his childhood dream of playing in the Little League World Series like his older brother.
Duplantis would spend his summers in Sweden, visiting his mother’s family and competing in local athletics meets.
In 2015 he chose to represent Sweden instead of the United States at the under-18 world championships.
“I wasn’t that big of a deal at the time,” he said. “I was jumping 5.25m or something, so I guess people didn’t care quite as much.
“Sweden and track and field always went together in my heart,” he added. “I’ve never looked back. I don’t regret that decision.”
On the track, Duplantis has developed friendships with his rivals, including world-record holder Renaud Lavillenie and Sam Kendricks, the 2016 Olympic bronze medallist. This summer he travelled to France to train with Lavillenie.
“We found this balance between having respect for each other when we are on the track and then kind of being friends and rivals,” Duplantis said of their camaraderie.
“That being said, we want to win, we want to beat each other despite how happy we look toward each other on the track.”
Greg Duplantis says the nature of the discipline, which includes travelling with cumbersome equipment and setting up high bars, inevitably unites pole vaulters.
“It’s almost impossible to do it by yourself,” he said. “When a pole vaulter has a problem with his or her pole, they call each other and say, ‘I’m having a problem, can you help me.’ That’s the pole vault ethic.”
Additional reporting by Steve Keating, Abdel Hadi Rahami and Iain Axon; Editing by Toby Davis