Duplantis heads stellar cast at athletics champs


Fresh from setting a new outdoor record, Swedish pole vaulter Mondo Duplantis heads a stellar cast into the inaugural world championships on US soil in Eugene, Oregon, that kick off on Friday.

Duplantis, who soared to 6.16m in Stockholm at the end of June – 4cm off his overall best of 6.20m set while claiming world indoor gold in Belgrade in March, is seeking a first world title having had to settle for silver in 2019 behind American Sam Hendricks, absent from Eugene through injury.

“I’ve proved to myself and everyone else I’m in pretty good form,” said the US-born and raised Duplantis.

“It’s been nice to come back home and relax before the big dance.”

The Swede fired out a warning shot to allcomers, insisting he took nothing for granted.

“I’ve done a lot to get here. I feel like I’m very hungry,” he said. “I’ve done some pretty great things so far, but there are little things you can always improve.”

Duplantis aside, there is a feast of talent on show at a world champs postponed a year amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

The 400m hurdles could be the top track event in both sexes, an event in which Norway’s Karsten Warholm and American Sydney McLaughlin set stunning world records when winning Olympic gols in Tokyo last year.

McLaughlin bettered her record this season and will once again go toe-to-toe with compatriot Dalilah Muhammad and Femke Bol of the Netherlands, the silver and bronze medal winners in Tokyo.

The situation is more complicated for Warholm, who sustained a hamstring injury in early June, but has vowed he’s back firing on all cylinders having survived the “living hell” of rehabilitation.

“There’s no such thing as going into a championships and feeling just OK. I feel good to go and when I say good to go, that always means 100%,” said Warholm, with American Rai Benjamin and Brazil’s Alison Dos Santos setting the pace in the event.

Italy’s Marcell Jacobs, a shock winner of the Olympic 100m gold, has endured a similar return from injury and he will also have to be at the top of his game to see off a strong US quartet including in-form Fred Kerley.

Christian Coleman, banned from the Tokyo Games for missing three doping tests, will be defending his 100m title while Marvin Bracy has also hit form, hinting that unless Jacobs or another rival steps up, the Americans will be odds-on for a third medal sweep after 1983 and 1991. The men’s 100m heats get under way on Friday with the final set for Saturday.

Jamaica are likely to dominate the women’s blue riband event, with two-time Olympic champion Elaine Thompson-Herah seeking to improve on her fourth-placed finish in the last world chamionships in Doha in 2019.

The winner in the Qatari capital was Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who had to play second fiddle to her teammate at the Tokyo Games but will be bidding for a remarkable fifth world 100m title in Eugene.

Other stand-out events include Norway’s Jakob Ingebrigtsen in the men’s 1500m, while Dutch runner Sifan Hassan, who won the 5000 and 10,000m in Tokyo, is down to run those two events plus the 1500m.

Of the 1,900 athletes from 192 countries expected to descend on Eugene, a special mention must go to American Allyson Felix.

The 36-year-old will compete in the 4x400m mixed relay to bring the curtain down on an illustrious career that has seen her amass a record 18 world and 11 Olympic medals, including 13 and seven golds resepctively.

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