At 17, ‘the Tiger Woods of Pole Vaulting’ Soars Ahead of His Time

Mondo Duplantis is the only high school vaulter to
have cleared 19 feet, and he has done it twice this year.

“He’s the Tiger Woods of pole vaulting.”

.. His father was an all-American pole-vaulter who jumped 19 feet 1/4 inch as a professional. His mother, Helena, a native of Sweden, was a heptathlete and volleyball player. His eldest brother, Andreas, finished as high as third at the Southeastern Conference indoor vaulting championships. The family’s middle son, Antoine, played in the Little League World Series in 2005 and is now an outfielder at L.S.U., having recently set a school record with six hits in a game.

.. At 17, Duplantis is not ready to travel regularly around the world to compete, his father said.

“He may be a good enough pole-vaulter, but he needs a little more formal and life education to do it,” Greg Duplantis said. “We’ll see this time next year.”

.. At first glance, Duplantis, thin and rangy at 5 feet 10 inches and 145 pounds, does not appear to be a world-class vaulter. Many are taller than 6 feet and heavier. But he can dunk a basketball, his father said, and has long-jumped 23 feet 3 inches. He also runs the anchor leg on Lafayette High’s 4×100-meter relay; his split has been hand-timed at 10.55 seconds.

.. He has developed strength specific to his event, in part, by hanging upside down, like a bat, in the backyard and doing inverted pull-ups, using a device fashioned from a rope, foot straps, weights and a pulley.

.. A technique favored by many vaulters is to drive the front knee high and let the trail leg swing upward like a pendulum. But Duplantis believes he generates more momentum by swinging both legs in a retro style employed by vaulters who once used rigid poles made of bamboo and aluminum.

.. And he has the speed, strength and technique to bend and control the recoil of poles designed for vaulters as heavy as 195 pounds — 50 above his own weight.