Pole vault legend applauds the current world record-holder and the feeling is mutual as the duo chat ahead of the Tokyo Olympics

Sergey Bubka has told Armand Duplantis he has a “fantastic chance” of winning pole vault gold at the Tokyo Olympics and that the young Swedish athlete can go on to add further centimetres to his world record.

The two shared a conversation ahead of the nomination of Duplantis for this year’s Laureus World Sportsman of the Year Award. In the discussion they talked about Bubka’s glittering past and Duplantis’ hopes for the future and even spent time discussing the merits of the different length and flex of poles.

Last year Duplantis broke Renaud Lavillenie’s six-year-old world record with 6.17m in Poland and increased it a week later in Glasgow to 6.18m. Then a few months later at the Diamond League in Rome he broke Bubka’s highest outdoor vault in history with 6.15m.

Bubka, who won six world titles and broke the world record 35 times, told Duplantis: “This is great what you did and I believe for the future it is also possible to jump higher. I understand that the Olympic Games is a very important event for you and, of course, I wish you good luck in the Olympics, because this is something unique. There is nothing to compare with the Olympic Games.”

Bubka missed the Los Angeles Olympics due to an Eastern Bloc boycott and said: “Back in my memory, in 1984, I lost my dream with many other Olympians who dreamed to compete in the Olympics and win the Olympics. I lost it because of boycotts. In your case, in your generation, it’s a little bit different [with the pandemic], but I understand how tough it was.”

Duplantis told Bubka: “It was pretty tough, because I was just coming off the indoor season where I broke the world record twice and I was pretty much just on top of the world. I felt fantastic jumping and the rhythm on the run and everything just felt really great and then, two weeks later, everything shut down. I think the main thing for me was keeping the motivation and the excitement – don’t think of it as cancelled, it’s just postponed, it’s going to happen.

“I want to jump as high as possible, but a really important thing for me now is I want to win the championship meets. I came up a little short in 2019, I was second in the World Championships and so, of course, that’s a meet that I want to win and I want to win several times.

“I think the big goal right now is the Olympics. I mean, it’s the biggest event in track and field, it’s the pinnacle of our sport. So I want to be able to come away with the gold because I think it’s really important if you want to leave your legacy as one of the best pole vaulters to live.”

Bubka wished Duplantis luck. “You have a fantastic chance to get this glory and to feel this value of Olympic victory. Do your best, keep motivation and, of course, make your family and fans of athletics happy and proud.”

Duplantis also revealed to Bubka that he has been one of his idols for years. “I grew up pole vaulting at such a young age. When I was four, five, six, I was watching videos of you, it seemed like it was impossible feats, really. As the years kept going on, and I started getting closer and closer to that six-metre barrier, the dream started to become a little bit more of a reality.

“It’s such a special mark. A lot of that is because of you, because you set the bar so high. There’s still quite a few things I need to do if I want to catch you, but hopefully this career has just started and I’m able to achieve a lot more things.”

For the Laureus award, Duplantis is up against fellow athlete Joshua Cheptegei plus Lewis Hamilton, Rafael Nadal, LeBron James and Robert Lewandowski.

Marathon runner Brigid Kosgei is among the contenders for the Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year Award along with Naomi Osaka, Anna van der Breggen, Federica Brignone, Wendie Renard and Breanna Stewart with the winners announced in early May.

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