Olympic and European pole vault champion Armand Duplantis continued his impressive start to the year by threatening his own world record at the ISTAF Indoor in Berlin on Friday (4), a World Indoor Tour Silver meeting.
The Swede still set a world leading mark and meeting record of 6.03m after a thrilling battle with American vaulter KC Lightfoot, who pushed him to go one centimetre higher than his 6.02m performance and season’s opener in Karlsruhe last month.
On the track, Olympic 100m and 4x100m relay champion Marcell Jacobs took a commanding 60m victory on what was his long-awaited return to the track following Tokyo 2020.
With a clean reaction to the gun, and a sprint so smooth it appeared effortless, the 27-year-old Italian looked like he had never been away as he eased up, yet still crossed the line in 6.51 - just 0.04 shy of his lifetime best.
Duplantis comes so close to 6.19m
Duplantis was one of six athletes left vaulting at 5.81m - and with three-time world medallist Piotr Lisek going out at this height - eyes turned to the man who made history by clearing 6.17m and 6.18 in the space of seven days two years ago.
But first, Germany's Oleg Zernikel gave the home supporters something to cheer as he repeated his personal best-setting feat from last year's meet to go over, leaving him to afterwards say that he is dreaming of a medal at next month’s World Athletics Indoor Championships in Belgrade, Serbia from 18-20 March.
Then, Olympic fourth-placer Lightfoot stunned with first-time success at 5.92m to keep Duplantis on his toes. He responded by leaving the bar rattling before it eventually came down, only for the usual calm to be restored by progression with his final go.
Lightfoot - who has a best of 6.00m - put determination into exploring uncharted territory at 6.03m - but couldn’t guide himself over. That left the route clear for Duplantis to do something rather familiar: attempt a 6.19m world record. The 22-year-old agonisingly brushed the bar off with his knee with an otherwise excellent second attempt.
“It felt like I had the height to make it,” Duplantis said. “I am at a point of my career where I make tiny progressions. I tried something different on my approach than last week - a bit more aggressive. I know that I was a better jumper this week than I was last week,” he added.
Jacobs makes a statement on his return to the track
The men's 60m final featured in adjacent lanes Vicaut and also his predecessor as European 100m record-holder Jimmy Vicaut from France. Jacobs rounded off the evening with a scintillating 6.51 clocking that suggested there is more to come while third-placed Vicaut’s time of 6.61 was his best 60m showing since 2014.
Jacobs, who is also racing next Friday at the Orlen Cup in Lodz en route to Belgrade, said: “Last year I started my season here and it was the beginning of an unforgettable year. It was a good reason for starting again here. I am hoping for an even better season,” he said.
On the women’s side, Olympic 100m finalist Daryll Neita came away with two 60m personal bests with a 7.15 clocking in the final that bettered her 7.18 heat time and hauled her up to fifth on the British all-time list. The second and third-placed finishers also ran faster than ever before, with 7.28 for Italy's Zaynab Dosso and 7.29 for Sophia Junk of Germany.
With it being her first long jump competition of the year and an unexpected one given the fact she was initially planning on only contesting the 60m, reigning Olympic, world and European champion Malaika Mihambo said the meeting was about “settling in”.
Fellow German Merle Homeier made the early headlines, leaping out to 6.59m to lead after three rounds with Mihambo yet to register a mark.
Sweden’s European indoor bronze medallist Khaddi Sagnia rewrote the script by leaping out to 6.68m in the fifth round, which wouldn’t be beaten. That was despite the best efforts of the local athletes as first Homeier, and then Mihambo both jumped a best of 6.66m with their last jumps.
In what has arguably become Finland's strongest track event over the last few years, Reetta Hurske won the women's 60m hurdles, racing to the line in 7.99, ahead of 20-year-old Dutch starlet Zoe Sedney (8.05), who was a European indoor finalist last year.
It was the same margin of victory as her compatriot Koen Smet - also a Torun 2021 finalist - was beaten in the men's 60m hurdles by world and European indoor bronze medallist Aurel Manga who powered to the line in 7.62 to 7.68.
Full results here.