There were lofty expectations placed on LSU’s freshman pole vaulter Armand “Mondo” Duplantis long before he even stepped through the Baton Rouge city limits.
He is seen as somewhat of a prodigy.
“I know this sounds crazy,” LSU track and field coach Dennis Shaver said. “It may not happen this year, but he is going to be the world record holder in the pole vault.”
Duplantis is widely seen as one of the better athletes LSU has had in any sport in quite some time.
At the age of 15, Duplantis won gold in boys pole vault in the 2015 World Youth Olympics. He also won the gold medal at the 2018 European Championships.
He holds numerous age group world records, including his 2018 cleared height of 6.05 meters, which is the under-20’s world record.
As one of the world’s top athletes throughout his life, he is no stranger to expectations.
“I think there is a little pressure in a sense that if i don’t win the SEC championships, or if I don’t win the NCAA championships, some people will be a little bit disappointed in me,” Duplantis said. “I feel like they are expecting me to. I put pressure on myself, not in a bad way at all. I just use the pressure more as motivation rather than letting it break me down.”
Duplantis comes from an athletic family. His father and brother are both former-LSU pole vaulters. His mother competed in the heptathlon and played volleyball for Sweden, the country that Mondo competes for as well.
His other brother Antoine is down the street at Alex Box Stadium, playing for an LSU baseball team that is one of the best in the nation.
“Growing up in such an athletic family with siblings that are fantastic at what they do,” Duplantis said. “It makes you want to raise your game and be up to par with them. Antoine is an animal and I hope he has a crazy breakout season.”
The Duplantises have subtle ways of competing with each other. Antoine is in his senior season with the baseball team. Last season, he hit two homeruns. On Friday, Feb. 15, the same day Mondo had a track meet, Antoine hit two homeruns in one game. Mondo took this as a message.
“I think he was telling me I need to step it up,” Duplantis said. “I think he was trying to really be the best athlete in the family. He might not be number one.”
While his pole vaulting is amazing for almost anyone who watches, or sees a picture of him 20 feet in the air, he is used to all of it.
“I don’t really feel the fall,” Duplantis said. “You’re thinking about so many things. You’re trying so hard to complete a good, technical jump that you don’t really think about the fall. By the time you are done with a jump you are just relieved that it was good or you’re mad about how bad it was. You end up falling before you know it. If it is a good jump I will enjoy the fall for sure.”
Not only are viewers impressed with Mondo’s performances, even his teammates are taking notice.
“I’m really in awe,” senior sprinter Kourtney Johnson said. “Just seeing him jump like that is really amazing. He’s blessed.”
Duplantis has his sights set on winning on numerous different levels this year. Duplantis is only a freshman, so LSU track and field fans have much to look forward to now and in the future.
“I want to win SECs. I want to win NCAAs, indoor and outdoor,” Duplantis said. “That’s the main focus right now. Then after that they have the Diamond League circuit meets, then the world championship meets at the end of the summer.”