Having edged ahead of Sergey Bubka with the highest number of 6.00m-plus pole vault clearances, Armand Duplantis can go one better than the great Ukrainian by retaining his first major senior title at the Munich 2022 European Athletics Championships, part of the wider multi-sport European Championships from 11-21 August.
For all of his trailblazing achievements, Bubka only ever gained one European outdoor crown, in Stuttgart in 1986 (although Bubka admittedly had fewer opportunities with the European Championships taking place every four years in his day) and Duplantis has the chance to gain his second in the Munich Olympic Stadium at the age of 22.
It was at the last European Athletics Championships in Berlin in 2018 that the American-born Swede announced his arrival on the senior scene, triumphing with a first-time championship record and world U20 record 6.05m clearance at the age of 18 to become the youngest member of the 6.00m club.
Four years on, Duplantis has won every title available to him – Olympic, world outdoor and indoor, European outdoor and indoor – and has advanced the world record from 6.16m to 6.21m, the latest clearance coming at the World Athletics Championships in Oregon where Duplantis completed the full set.
Bubka, who raised the global bar from 5.83m to 6.14m, was the first vaulter to breach the 6.00m-barrier and proceeded to notch 46 clearances in total at that height or above.
Duplantis took his tally to 49 with his 6.21m world record clearance in Oregon last month before adding two more for posterity at the Kamila Skolimowska Memorial in Silesia last Saturday (6), passing the half-century mark with a total that now stands at 51.
Unbeaten in 18 competitions indoors and outdoors and with the six best vaults outdoors to his name this summer, Duplantis will start as the clearest favourite in any event at Munich 2022.
Not that there will be any shortage of vaulters vying for a medal, and ready to take advantage of an exceedingly unlikely slip-up on Duplantis’ part.
Renaud Lavillenie, the previous world record-holder and three-time European champion, was back in form and in the hunt for a medal at the World Athletics Championships, the ultra-competitive Frenchman finishing just shy of the podium in joint fifth-place with Germany’s Oleg Zernikel.
Lavillenie and Zernikel both cleared 5.87m in the Oregon final, as did Zernikel’s German teammate Bo Kanda Lita Baehre, the 2019 European U23 champion, who placed seventh.
The other five Europeans who made the World Athletics Championships final will all be in Munich: Türkiye’s Ersu Sasma, Norwegian youngsters Pal Lillefosse and Sondre Guttormsen, Belgian Ben Broeders and Menno Vloon of the Netherlands.
Also on the entry list is Poland’s Piotr Lisek, who boasts five world indoor and outdoors medals. The 29-year-old sadly didn’t make it beyond the qualifying round in Oregon having amassed an incredible 14 successive top six finishes in major events between 2014 and 2021 but Munich offers another opportunity for Lisek to reach yet another final and possibly another medal.
Tentoglou poised to join exclusive club with successful long jump title defence
Unlike Duplantis, Greek long jumper Miltiadis Tentoglou was unable to complete a full set of major championship gold medals in Oregon.
Denied victory by a last round 8.36m leap by China’s Wang Jianan, the 24-year-old will have to wait until next year’s World Athletics Championships in Budapest for another chance to plug that one and only gap on his otherwise gleaming resume.
In the meantime, Tentoglou has the opportunity to become only the fourth man to successfully defend the European long jump title, following in the footsteps of Germany’s Wilhelm Leichum (1934/1938), the Ukrainian-Soviet Igor Ter-Ovanesyan (1958/1962, also a winner in 1969) and Great Britain’s Greg Rutherford (2014/2016).
Simon Ehammer heads the 2022 world outdoor list with 8.45m but the multi-talented Swiss athlete, who took bronze behind Wang and Tentoglou in Oregon, will be concentrating solely on the decathlon in Munich.
Tentoglou heads the entry list with a season’s best of 8.36m (although he did jump 8.55m to win the world indoor title in Belgrade this March) but he can expect strong competition from his long-time Thobias Montler who has come close but is yet to defeat the Greek in a major competition.
The Swede won world indoor silver behind Tentoglou in Belgrade in March and silver behind his redoubtable nemesis at both the 2019 and 2021 European Athletics Indoor Championships.
Other medal contenders include Spaniards Eusebio Caceres and Hector Santos, the latter a silver medal-winner behind Tentoglou at the 2019 European Athletics U23 Championships, France’s Jules Pommery and the experienced Czech long jumper Radek Juska.
Like Duplantis, the Cuban-born Portuguese triple jumper Pedro Pablo Pichardo will be looking to complete a World and European Championships double, having triumphed in Oregon with a world lead 17.95m.
And like the Swedish pole vaulter, Pichardo will start clear favourite, although young Italian jumpers Andrea Dallavalle and Emanuel Ihemeje are both taking notable steps - plus hops and jumps, naturally - in the event.
Dallavalle, 22, was just six centimetres shy of the podium in Oregon, finishing fourth with 17.25m while Ihemeje, 23, was fifth with 17.17m.
The entry list also includes 2014 European champion Benjamin Compaore, 35, a 17.48m jumper with a season’s best of 17.07m and 40-year-old Dimitrios Tsiamis from Greece, the bronze medallist from Berlin 2018, whose lifetime best of 17.55m dates back to 2006.
Champions past and present gather for the high jump
The men’s high jump features the last three winners of the European title: Germany’s reigning champion Mateusz Przybylko (2018), Italy’s joint Olympic champion Gianmarco Tamberi (2016) and Ukraine’s former world champion Bohdan Bondarenko (2014), the latter on the comeback trail from a series of knee injuries.
Tamberi produced a season’s best clearance of 2.33m in the World Athletics Championships final but had to settle for fourth place, missing bronze on countback to Ukrainian veteran Andriy Protsenko who spent the early weeks of the Russian invasion training in a field with makeshift equipment before arriving in Portugal with his family who were displaced from the war-torn Kherson region of Ukraine.
“There was no high jumping, but I found the possibility to run. It was not so difficult to find something to create the equipment. The main thing was to find the motivation to train – but fortunately I could do it,” said Protsenko.
Since Oregon, Tamberi has been waylaid by coronavirus but he recovered sufficiently to make a winning return to competition in Szekesfehervar earlier this week albeit with a relatively modest height of 2.24m which is unlikely to challenge for a medal in Munich.
Other likely medal contenders in a largely open contest include Israel’s 19-year-old Yonathan Kapitolink, who won World and European U20 titles last year, and Türkiye’s Enes Senses and Germany’s former European U20 champion Tobias Potye, who have jumped 2.31m and 2.30m respectively this year.
The Munich 2022 European Athletics Championships will be streamed live in its entirety through the European Athletics website.