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Mondo Duplantis aims for ‘dominance’ in ‘freaky sport’ of pole vault after breaking the world record multiple times

By George Ramsay, Amanda Davies and Aleks Klosok, CNN

(CNN) — Few athletes can claim to be as dominant in their discipline as Mondo Duplantis, the pole vault star who has broken the world record a staggering seven times.

His latest record of 6.23 meters, achieved at last year’s world championships, is seven centimeters higher than anyone else has managed in the history of the sport, a testament to his supremacy in the pole vault over the past four years.

Duplantis’ medal haul is also impressive, boasting an Olympic gold and four world championship titles – two indoor and two outdoor – with his sights set on further Olympic success in Paris later this year.

And as for world records, Duplantis promises that he’s not done yet.

“I think in the near future, I hope to just raise it up as little as I can because I think that’s all I need to do for a world record,” he tells CNN Sport’s Amanda Davies. “I know that I can jump higher. I know that I have higher heights in me.

“I know what I need to do to get into those 6.30-type marks … I want to be dominant in the sport because I know that’s what I’m capable of, trying to win every competition and get the most out of myself at every meet that I’m at.

“If I’m able to jump high, jump a world record, then that’s just a cherry on top.”

Sporting pedigree runs in the Duplantis family: his father was a former top pole vaulter and his mother a heptathlete who competed for Sweden.

He has been pole vaulting for almost as long as he could walk, taking his first steps in the sport as a three-year-old in his parents’ backyard in Lafayette, Louisiana, where a runway, bar and crash mat were installed for him and his siblings to use.

While most athletes would take up the sport in their teenage years, it has been a lifelong affair for Duplantis, his childhood hobby gradually morphing into a successful career.

He will never tire, he explains, of the feeling of climbing into the air, bending his body over a bar and falling back down to earth.

“It’s special, and I think that it’s so hard to compare to most things,” he says. “But when you get it right, it’s like you’re kind of doing this little dance with the pole.

“It happens fast. I feel like when I’m on my game and I’m dialed in and everything’s in the place where it needs to be then it’s super cool. It’s like riding a wave.”

One of the more technical events in track and field, pole vault requires a unique blend of speed, strength and flexibility, though the mental aspect, says Duplantis, is just as important as the physical demands.

“You have to be a little bit – or quite a bit – crazy to be able to dare to pole vault because it is a little bit of a freaky sport, in a way,” he explains.

“You have to have the guts to be able to push yourself, and you’re going to be uncomfortable a lot of the time when you’re going up to stiffer poles, longer poles, trying new heights, new barriers all the time.”

Born and raised in Louisiana, Duplantis has dual Swedish and American citizenship but competes for his mother’s native country on the international circuit.

He is the strong favorite to defend his gold medal at the Paris Olympics, which officially begin on July 26, but had to work hard to win a second indoor world title last month after failing twice at 5.85m – a height he would usually expect to clear with ease.

In the end, he managed to record a world-leading 6.05m, 15 centimeters higher than American Sam Kendricks in second and 20 clear of Greece’s Emmanouil Karalis in third.

Duplantis later admitted that it was the hardest he had ever had to work in a competition, though he will be hoping that his events are more smooth-sailing as he embarks on the outdoor season with the Olympics looming.

But when things don’t go as planned, Duplantis would do well to remind himself of his long history with the pole vault, even though the stakes are now higher and the audiences are much bigger than when he first took up the sport.

“It’s still the same old pole vault,” he says. “The same event I’ve been doing since I was just a tiny little kid jumping in my backyard. I’m getting better as the year goes on which is a really cool thing. I’m definitely living my dream.”

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