ATHLETICS NEWS - Swedish athletics star Armand Duplantis says his efforts to shed his "fat college kid" physique paid off as he soared to a new world record in the pole vault, and promptly promised more.
Duplantis, known by his nickname "Mondo", sailed over 6.17 metres at an indoor meeting in the Polish city of Torun on Saturday.
The 20-year-old, born in the United States to American father and coach Greg - himself a former pole vaulter who cleared 5.80m - and Swedish hepathlete mother Helena, had almost broken the record at a meeting just days earlier in Duesseldorf.
He will have a chance to improve the mark in indoor meetings in Glasgow on Saturday, and then in France at Lievin on February 19 and Clermont-Ferrand four days later - in the pole vault, athletics' governing body no longer makes any distinction between indoor and outdoor records.
Duplantis' performance marks him out as a clear favourite for the Olympic title in Tokyo this year.
He claimed silver at October's World Athletics Championships in Doha behind American Sam Hendricks just months after turning professional having attended Louisiana State University on an athletics scholarship.
Duplantis credits a new fitness drive with success on the same pole he used in the Qatari capital.
"I couldn't do much with it in Doha because I was just a big fat college kid at the time, I guess," said Duplantis.
"I'm a lot more in shape now so I can get a lot more out of the pole."
Duplantis, in an interview with World Athletics, also credited a more professional approach he has adopted this season.
"Before I was a high school kid, and I was a college kid. On Friday night, Saturday night, I was a college kid. I don't regret that," he said.
"But I wanted to take this to 100 percent, and be a professional. And I'm having the most fun I've ever had in my life."
Duplantis' new record beat by one centimetre the previous best set six years ago by France's Renaud Lavillenie, the 2012 Olympic champion.
"Have a good day baby, but not too good," Lavillenie texted Duplantis before his competition in Torun.
Duplantis openly admits that growing up in a track and field-crazy family that even had their own vaulting apparatus in the garden, "Renaud was my absolute idol".
"There is no other person I'd want to take (the record) from.
"The support he's given me through this whole process too, has been phenomenal."
Lavillenie's former coach Damien Inocencio said Duplantis' main strength was his natural speed, a real asset over 30-40 metres down the runway towards the plant and a propelled take-off.
"Two years ago he ran a 100m in 10.56 seconds, so that comes naturally. He's also a good size (1.81m/5ft 11in) and a real competitor with a great mental strength," said Inocencio.
Jean Galfione, who won Olympic pole vault gold for France in 1996, added: "He vaults in a very specific way.
"When he beat the world record, it looked easy. All vaulting fundamentals are exceptionally mastered.
"He arrives fast and importantly doesn't lose his speed because he's efficient on his final moments of his approach. He loads the flexion of the pole and very quickly unleashes it."
Duplantis, who announced his prodigious talent to a wider audience when he won the European outdoor title in Berlin in 2018 with a vault of 6.05m, a world junior record, acknowledged that the world record in Torun had not come as a surprise.
He opened with an easy clearance at 5.52m and then went on to clear 5.72, 5.92 and 6.01m at first attempts. A first effort at 6.17m was solid before the history-making vault on his second attempt.
"I knew I had it in me," he said. "I knew it was a possibility. In Dusseldorf I had a great attempt at it - but you never know when you'll be in that kind of shape again, in world record shape again.
"After that first attempt (in Torun), I thought, 'yeah, I just need two more attempts at this and I got it'. I was pretty confident that I had it."
The question on everyone's lips is whether 'Mondo' can go higher in what is one of the most technical events in track and field, but often one of the most gripping to watch.
"Of course," Duplantis said, happy to make world record attempts a habit.
"Sure. If I feel good, why not go to 6.18?"