Former LSU pole vaulter Mondo Duplantis becomes first Tigers’ men’s track star to win Olympic individual gold in 85 years

Former LSU pole vaulter Mondo Duplantis became the first Tigers’ track and field star to win an Olympics individual gold medal since 1936 when he captured the event in the Tokyo Summer Games on Tuesday.

Duplantis, who was jumping for his mother’s native country of Sweden, won at height of 19 feet, 9 inches. It was his 28th win in his last 29 competitions.

He made all five of his first attempts — 18-2½, 19- ¼, 19-5, 19-7 and finally 19-9 for the win to beat Christopher Nilsen of the United States.

Then after winning the gold, Duplantis decided to go for another world record attempt at 20 feet, 3 inches. On his first attempt, he went over but his chest caught the bar on the way down. He missed his last two attempts.

In his Olympic debut, the 21-year old Duplantis of Lafayette joined Glen “Slats” Hardin, who won the 400 meter hurdles at the 1936 Olympics, as the only LSU men’s track and field stars to win an individual gold medal.

In his one season at LSU in 2019 before turning pro, he was 8-1 in event finals. He won the NCAA pole vault indoor champion (19 feet, 1 1/2 inches), the NCAA outdoor runner-up (19 feet, 1/4 inches) and the SEC indoor and outdoor champion. He also became the indoor record holder (19 feet, 5 inches and the collegiate outdoor record holder (19 feet, 8 1/4 inches).

He owns two of the top three jumps in outdoor collegiate history and four of top 10 marks in indoor collegiate history. He also was the first collegian in collegiate history to have four clearances of 19 feet, 1 1/2 inches or better indoors.

Duplantis is the son of Greg and Helena Duplantis, who met at LSU while they were competing on the Tigers’ men’s and women’s track teams respectively. They were both in the stands in Tokyo as coaching staff members, and Duplantis conferred often with his father at the rail of the stands all through the finals.

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Ron Higgins

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