The Local Voice

Sam Kendricks Becomes Second to Ever Repeat as World Pole Vault Champion


Kendricks is First Repeat Men’s World Pole Vault Champion Since 1997

Rebel Olympian and Oxford native Sam Kendricks defended his world title in the men’s pole vault in thrilling fashion, eclipsing teenage phenom Mondo Duplantis for the IAAF World Championships gold medal on Tuesday.

The win makes Kendricks just the second in world history to repeat as the world outdoor men’s champion in the pole vault, joining world outdoor record holder Sergey Bubka, who won the first six titles from 1983-97 first for the Soviet Union and then Ukraine.

Kendricks entered in the midst of the greatest season of his already prolific professional career, but it took all he had not only to win, but to remain in the competition against two other global titans in Duplantis and Poland’s Piotr Lisek. In total, Kendricks had faced Duplantis (3-3) and Lisek (11-5) a total of 22 times in 2019, going a combined 14-8 against them.

“When you respect your competition, you can’t ever take for granted that it might not happen,” Kendricks told NBC Sports’ Lewis Johnson afterward. “It’s certainly a gift every time, and my goodness, it’s a memorable night.”

The trio – who also ranked as the top three worldwide in 2019 entering competition – were the final three remaining with the bar at 5.87m (19-03.00) after all had cruised to the height without a scratch.

From this point on the competition went from steady to wild. Duplantis and Lisek both cleared on their second attempts, while Kendricks failed on his first two attempts and faced elimination and a bronze medal on his third. Under pressure, though, Kendricks shone, clearing in the clutch to remain in the competition. Then, on his first attempt at the next height of 5.92m (19-03.00), Kendricks seized control after a demonstrative success over the bar.

Duplantis responded in the clutch as well, hitting on his third attempt to remain while Lisek passed after a first attempt miss. Lisek would bow out after two misses at 5.97m (19-07.00), but it came down to theatrics again for both Kendricks and Duplantis, who clung to life after third-attempt successes to force a one-on-one showdown for the gold medal at 6.02m (19-09.00).

Neither were able to clear the final bar, but Kendricks’ heroics at 5.92m earned him the gold medal on account of total misses after Duplantis failed on his three attempts at 6.02m.

“Somehow, I went from first, then to second, and then only by the merit of misses earlier in the competition that I was able to hit the clutch jump and take the win,” Kendricks said. “That 6.02 was in both of our eyes, but because it was such a messy card it was a hard bar to make.”

Tuesday’s events cap a brilliant season by Kendricks, who back in July set the American record at 6.06m (19-10.50) to win his record sixth straight U.S. outdoor title and become the second-best outdoor pole vaulter in world history behind Bubka. This marks his fourth career World medal, and it also makes him the first Rebel male to ever repeat as a World champion after becoming the first to ever win in 2017. Kendricks was also a force to be reckoned with on the Diamond League circuit, winning five total titles this season alone.

Ole Miss still has two former Rebel greats left in competition in Doha: reigning U.S. champion Craig Engels in the men’s 1500-meter semifinals on Friday, October 4 and seven-time World champion Brittney Reese in the women’s long jump qualifying on Saturday, October 5.

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