(Reuters) – Former Olympic pole vault champion Renaud Lavillenie of France and Sweden’s world record holder Mondo Duplantis shared the spoils in the Ultimate Garden Clash, despite competing in locations 8,000km apart during the COVID-19 lockdown.
Along with American Sam Kendricks, the trio attempted to vault 5m as many times as they could in 30 minutes in a format they devised together, connected via a live video link streamed to fans on the social media channels of World Athletics.
Kendricks attempted the challenge in Oxford, Mississippi, Duplantis was based in Lafayette, Louisiana while Lavillenie competed in his back garden in Clermont-Ferrand, France.
Duplantis took an early lead before Lavillenie caught up while Kendricks tried to pace himself. By the end of 30 minutes, Lavillenie and Duplantis had both cleared the height 36 times while Kendricks only managed 26.
“I’m done, I don’t want to take any risks. I’ll share the gold with Mondo,” Lavillenie said. “I was really missing the feeling I get competing.
“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 set the world record mark of 6.18m earlier this year, wanted to go on for three more minutes to break the tie but eventually decided to settle for the shared victory with the two-times Olympic medallist.
“It was really fun being out there competing against those guys,” Duplantis said. “I had really missed competing. I didn’t think it was going to end in a tie, but that’s sports.”
World Athletics president Sebastian Coe lauded the initiative and said he hoped there would be more such events during the lockdown.
The global governing body said they were exploring the possibility of holding similar events in the future.
(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Christian Radnedge)