Pole vault kings Duplantis, Lavillenie tie in back-garden competition


Paris (AFP)

Three of the best pole vaulters of all time went head-to-head in a competition on Sunday from their back gardens, as sport continued to find new ways of taking place despite the coronavirus pandemic.

World record holder Armand Duplantis and former Olympic champion Renaud Lavillenie cleared five metres 36 times in half an hour, while world champion Sam Kendricks managed 26 successful attempts.

The event, livestreamed by World Athletics on social media and watched by around 20,000 people, saw Lavillenie competing from his home in Clermont-Ferrand, France, with Swedish star Duplantis in Lafayette, Louisiana and Kendricks in Oxford, Mississippi.

The 20-year-old Duplantis wanted an extra three minutes to decide a winner, but Lavillenie, 33, said he was "done".

"I was really missing the feeling I get competing," said Frenchman Lavillenie.

"It's crazy but even doing this in my garden, I get the same feeling I'd get at a major championships. It was very exciting and I'm very happy to be a part of it.

"I'm not going to do it every week, but I'm happy to do it once a year."

Duplantis, who replaced Lavillenie as world record holder, let a halfway lead slip with a rare missed effort.

"It was really fun being out there competing against those guys," he said. "I had really missed competing."

World Athletics said it would look into holding more "Ultimate Garden Clashes" in the coming weeks, with much of the world still under lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"This is a brilliant initiative, great fun and really innovative," said World Athletics president Sebastian Coe.

"My thanks go to them, their families and the World Athletics team for bringing live athletics back during lockdown."