Olympic champion aiming to secure another pole vault world record as the stars come out to play in Birmingham

With the dust still settling on Jakob Ingebrigtsen’s world indoor 1500m record, Olympic pole vault champion Mondo Duplantis insisted he is planning on being “aggressive” in the pursuit of his own slice of history at the Müller Indoor Grand Prix in Birmingham on Saturday (Feb 19).

The American-born Swede is also a world record-holder thanks to the vault of 6.18m which came at this same event, albeit staged in Glasgow, two years ago. He has come perilously close to overtaking that mark in recent weeks and made no secret of his intentions to go for it again on his return to British shores.

He and Ingebrigtsen are two of the standout talents in athletics right now and, with the Norwegian creating more headlines by clocking 3:30.60 in Liévin on Thursday evening, there could be another global record in store at what is the next stop on the World Indoor Tour Gold series.

Given his recent near-misses at 6.19m, Duplantis admitted he perhaps hadn’t given himself the ideal lead-up to tackling such a great height and, with that in mind, he will be changing his approach to the event in Birmingham.

“Tomorrow I’m going to be more aggressive with the heights that I choose,” said the 22-year-old, speaking at the pre-event press conference. “I think in the last few meets I’ve had too many jumps before going for the world record and that makes it a little tougher. I get more tired in my legs and I want to be in perfect shape when it comes to 6.19m.

“You want to feel perfect when the bar is at a world record height. At the end of the day it is tough and all the right numbers have to be in place.”

With crowds now back after two years of Covid-disrupted competition, the European indoor and outdoor champion will be looking for the spectators to play their part, too.

“It’s great to have these competitions now where we’re able to actually have spectators,” said Duplantis.

“A lot the competitions have just been very dull and haven’t had too much energy around them so it’s super awesome to be back in front of them. I would love the energy to be as hyped as it can be.”

Whether he is granted his request in terms of music to jump along to in the arena – some drill rap by the American artist Yeat – remains to be seen!

(l to r) Mondo Duplantis, Elaine Thompson-Herah, Keely Hodgkinson and Jake Wightman (Mark Shearman)

While Duplantis has a number of meetings already under his belt in 2022, the same can’t be said for Olympic 100m and 200m champion Elaine Thompson-Herah and 800m silver medallist Keely Hodgkinson, both of whom will be in action this weekend.

The Jamaican has raced just once so far this year, an outdoor 60m in Jamaica, and will be looking to gauge her fitness as she competes over the distance in Birmingham, possibly with the World Indoor Championships in mind.

Thompson-Herah was an unstoppable force in 2022, scorching her way to Olympic golds and closing in on the long-standing 100m and 200m world records of Florence Griffith-Joyner.

Her 60m personal best of 6.98 came at this venue in 2017 and she said: “My start is not the best and I’m working on that. I’d like to go under my PB but I’m not putting myself under pressure – I’m using these races to see where I’m at right now. I’m not sure if I’ll take on the World Indoors, but I’m excited to be back on the track.”

With five Olympic gold medals already safely despatched to her trophy cabinet, what keeps her going?

“I don’t think anyone wants to get up at 4am to go training – that is super hard – but it’s my job and it’s a passion that I have,” she added. “It’s good to get up in the morning and say I’m double Olympic champion and the fastest woman alive right now. I really want to maintain that, to get better and be the greatest female sprinter of all time.”

Hodgkinson also had a 2022 to remember, her 800m Olympic medal being won in a British record of 1:55.88, and this will be her first outing on the track since winning the Diamond League final back in September.

The European Indoor champion is building towards her first appearance at the world indoors and has been imbued with a new level of confidence given all of her recent achievements.

While she is not expecting to be in record-breaking form just yet, it was noted by the Briton’s mentor and world 800m bronze medallist Jenny Meadows that the current women’s 800m indoor world record, the 1:55.82 run by Slovenia’s Jolanda Čeplak, was set on March 3, 2002 – the day Hodgkinson was born.

Breaking records will be in Jake Wightman’s thoughts when the European and Commonwealth medallist steps out with a strong home line-up hoping to take down Peter Elliott’s indoor mark of 3:34.20, which has stood as the best of British since 1990. Wightman’s Scottish indoor record is 3:34.48.

Victory is the top priority for the Olympic finalist but he admits to having been inspired by Ingebrigtsen’s exploits in France.

“I remember last year watching him run 3:31 indoors and it was a couple of days before I was running the 1500m,” he says. “I watched it and I thought ‘right, I’m going to try and run 3:31’. I died and ended up running 3:34!

“But I hope that if you have Jakob running 3:30 then we’ve got to be within a few seconds of that. I’m sure that there are people in that race on Saturday who have watched it and are pretty inspired to go out and try to run quickly. Hopefully I can be a part of that and we’ll see some good times as a result.”

» Who? What? When? – read our guide to the Müller Indoor Grand Prix Birmingham

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