BERLIN (Reuters) – Armand Duplantis, another of Scandinavia’s phenomenal young athletics talents, brought down the curtain on a breakthrough European Championships with a record-breaking triumph in one of the all-time great pole vault competitions on Sunday.
The U.S.-raised Swedish teenager became the youngest man ever to clear six metres as he set three world junior records, finishing with a remarkable new mark of 6.05 metres.
On another splendid night of athletics, Dina Asher-Smith become only the third woman to win the European sprint treble as Britain’s men and women both roared to victory in the concluding 4×100m relays.
The Olympic Stadium saluted Poland’s matchless 33-year-old hammer thrower Anita Wlodarczyk, who won her fourth successive title with a championship record of 78.94 metres, and 34-year-old Portuguese Nelson Evora, the triple jump winner almost 10 years to the week since he leapt to Olympic gold in Beijing.
Yet it was the youthful mastery of Duplantis that caused most astonishment as, at 18 years and 275 days, he became the youngest man to win a field event in European Championships history.
It came just two days after the equally astounding Jakob Ingebrigtsen, of Norway, who took both the 1,500m and 5,000m, became the youngest men’s track champion in the Championships’ 84-year annals at 17.
The new pole vault champion, son of the former U.S. vaulter Greg Duplantis and Swedish heptathlete Helena Hedlund, broke his records, and raised his personal best by 12 centimetres, while under the toughest pressure in one of the best vault competitions ever seen.
The silver medallist, Russian Timur Morgunov, who had been cleared to compete as an Authorised Neutral Athlete, also joined the six-metre club while world record holder Renaud Lavillenie cleared 5.95m.
Duplantis, a phenomenon since he started learning to vault at the age of four in his back garden in Louisiana, cleared his world junior records of 5.95, 6.00 and 6.05 metres at the first attempt.
Even Sergey Bubka, the greatest vaulter of all, did not clear six metres until he was 21 and only three vaulters have ever gone higher than Duplantis now, indoors or out.
“6.05 is the jump of my life. It was such an unreal competition, I feel like I’m dreaming right now. It’s been one of the most special moments of my life and I’ll never forget it,” said Duplantis, who has now broken 13 world junior records.
“But I wouldn’t have been able to do it without those two pushing me. That was the motivation right there. Each time, I knew if I wanted to win, I had to clear it.”
When Duplantis cleared 6.05m, France’s great 31-year-old three-time champion and former Olympic gold medallist Lavillenie hugged him, almost as if recognising that he was handing over the baton of greatness to the teenager.
Asher-Smith, taking Britain from fourth to first with a scintillating anchor leg, emulated East Germans Petra Vogt (1969) and Katrin Krabbe (1990) as the only women to achieve the sprint treble.
On another fine night for Britain, Laura Muir kicked for home after just a lap-and-a-half of the 1,500m final, stretched away and then courageously held on down the home straight in 4:02.32 to become the first woman from her country to take the metric mile crown.
The saddest sight of the night was the Kenyan-born Israeli, Lonah Chemtai Salpeter, winner of the 10,000m, running off the track when locked in a duel with Dutch Sifan Hassan at the bell of the 5,000m.
Salpeter had sprinted to the line and thought she had won the silver, only to realise there was another lap to go. Hassan went on to win easily in a championship record 14:46.12.
“When she stopped, I went: ‘What is she doing? What should I do?’ I heard the people shout. It was crazy,” said Hassan.
Britain and Poland both finished with seven athletics golds but Germany amassed most medals, 19, headed by Gesa-Felicitas Krause’s successful defence of her 3,000m steeplechase title on Sunday, their sixth gold.
(Reporting by Ian Chadband; Editing by Clare Fallon)