World-class pole vault competition in backyards proves entertaining

Athletics found a way to host a world-class competition on Sunday, keeping athletes at a healthy social distance – as in hundreds, if not thousands, of miles.

The Ultimate Garden Clash had three pole vault champions videotaped from their backyards on separate continents.

“I really missed that sense of competition,” said Renaud Lavillenie of France. “It can be crazy, but even if it’s just a garden competition … I feel the same as if I were going for the world championship.”

The 2012 Olympic gold medalist shared first place with world record holder Mondo Duplantis from Sweden in an unusual event with unusual rules.

The vaults were given 30 minutes to see who could complete the most attempts at about 16 feet. That’s four feet below Duplantis’s record.

Competing behind his home in France, Lavillenie had built a runway between a fence and a children’s swing. Duplantis had more space outside his parents’ home in Lafayette, LA.

Two-time world champion Sam Kendricks jumped between chickens in the woods of Oxford, Miss.

Sam Kendricks participates in pole vaulting in the backyard in Oxford, Miss, on Sunday.

Sam Kendricks participates in pole vaulting in the backyard in Oxford, Miss, on Sunday.

(World Athletics)

“Everything is canceled, it is more difficult to find motivation,” said Duplantis. “It was nice to switch back to competition clothing.”

The event was part skill and part stamina, as Duplantis rushed to 18 successful jumps in the first 15 minutes, with Lavillenie close behind. Kendricks tried to fit in and quickly relapsed and said, “It was a great workout. … I received a stitch. ‘

His careful strategy would eventually put him in third place, as Lavillenie and Duplantis kept up their rushed pace, eventually reaching 36 jumps. They opted for a tiebreak.

“I’m done,” said Lavillenie, who was welcomed by neighbors. “I don’t want to take risks.”

At a time when sports like professional golf and NASCAR are planning a return, athletics took the plunge this weekend. The organizers plan to hold a professional meeting in Norway next month with video competition and races with just a few runners separated by empty lanes.

Meanwhile, officials hope to repeat Sunday’s home formula with other disciplines in the coming weeks.

“This is a great initiative,” said Sebastian Coe, president of the International Track Federation. “Very nice and really innovative.”

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