Mississippi Olympian pole vaulter joins two other stars to stage backyard competition, ‘Ultimate Garden Clash’

Published 1:57 pm Friday, May 1, 2020

Three of the world’s top pole vaulters are staging a show from their own backyards.

After clearing the bar, maybe a barbecue?

The competition billed as the “ Ultimate Garden Clash ” will take place Sunday and be streamed on the World Athletics’ social media channels. It’s a rare sports event during the pandemic that’s postponed the Tokyo Games until 2021 and has the track and field schedule on hold.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

The showdown features Sweden’s world record-holder Mondo Duplantis, who will be competing from his base in Louisiana. He will square off against two-time world champion Sam Kendricks, who will take part from Mississippi, and 2012 London Olympics champion Renaud Lavillenie, who’s using his setup from his home in France.

The trio collaborated on the competition format. Instead of the winner being the one who clears the highest bar, they will see who can vault over 5 meters (16 feet) the most times in a 30-minute span. The athletes agreed on the format since adjusting the bar is not practical without officials in place.

“I’m ecstatic to be able to compete again, especially against Sam and Renaud,” Duplantis said in a statement Friday. “Since it’s unknown what other competitions we will all have together, we definitely are going to enjoy this and have a good time with it. Also, winning this is crucial because I don’t like losing to them very much.”

Duplantis figures to be the favorite. After all, he broke Lavillenie’s world record in February. He cleared 6.17 meters (20-2 3⁄4) and then 6.18 (20-3 1⁄4) on consecutive weekends.

Then again, the uniqueness makes it anyone’s competition.

“The challenge is we don’t know what it will take to win, so it will be hard to gauge our effort,” Kendricks said. “I know that it doesn’t matter what we are doing together. We each want to win.”

The pole-vault setups for each are definitely one of a kind. In a promotional video, Kendricks’ landing mat looks nestled among the trees, while Lavillenie’s appears located next to a playhouse and a trampoline. In a recent video posted by sponsor Puma, Duplantis’ pole-vaulting platform is situated by a bush-lined brick wall.

One thing’s the same: All three want to clear that bar as many times as possible.

“This is a superb opportunity to see the best jumpers in a new competition format showing their love for their sport with a competition when most other sports are off,” Lavillenie said. “And because we are all at home, we have no excuses to miss this international home competition.”

This could be the start of a trend. World Athletics will look into holding “Ultimate Garden Clash” competitions in other events.

At the moment, nine competitions in the 15-meet Diamond League season have either been postponed, rescheduled or minimized.

The Bislett Games in Oslo on June 11 has been rebranded as the “Impossible Games” and turned into an exhibition event. Organizers have said the meet would still offer prize money from a $50,000 contribution by World Athletics. It will feature Norwegian 400-meter hurdles world champion Karsten Warholm attempting a world record in the rarely raced 300 hurdles.