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Pole vault kings Duplantis, Lavillenie tie in back-garden competition

Kendricks, Duplantis and Lavillenie faced off from their own gardens

Three of the best pole vaulters of all time went head-to-head in a competition on Sunday from their back gardens, as sport continued to find new ways of taking place despite the coronavirus pandemic.

World record holder Armand Duplantis and former Olympic champion Renaud Lavillenie cleared five metres 36 times in half an hour, while world champion Sam Kendricks managed 26 successful attempts.

The event, livestreamed by World Athletics on social media and watched by around 150,000 people, saw Lavillenie competing from his home in Clermont-Ferrand, France, with Swedish star Duplantis in Lafayette, Louisiana and Kendricks in Oxford, Mississippi.

The 20-year-old Duplantis wanted an extra three minutes to decide a winner, but Lavillenie, 33, said he was “done”.

“I was really missing the feeling I get competing,” said Frenchman Lavillenie.

“It’s crazy but even doing this in my garden, I get the same feeling I’d get at a major championships. It was very exciting and I’m very happy to be a part of it.

“I’m not going to do it every week, but I’m happy to do it once a year.”

Duplantis, who replaced Lavillenie as world record holder, let a halfway lead slip with a rare missed effort.

“It was really fun being out there competing against those guys,” he said. “I had really missed competing.”

World Athletics said it would look into holding more “Ultimate Garden Clashes” in the coming weeks, with much of the world still under lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“This is a brilliant initiative, great fun and really innovative,” said World Athletics president Sebastian Coe.

“My thanks go to them, their families and the World Athletics team for bringing live athletics back during lockdown.”

Lavillenie and Duplantis will face off again remotely in Oslo on June 11, with the Swede competing at the Bislett Stadium.

The event replaces the traditional Diamond League competition, and will also feature a world-record attempt by Norwegian hurdles star Karsten Warholm.

Earlier this week, the Lausanne Diamond League meeting organisers said they were looking at “other options” after announcing it would not be able to take place as planned on August 20.

Duplantis, who set a new world record of 6.18 metres in February, was the favourite to claim the Olympic title this year before the Tokyo Games were postponed until 2021.

Brazil’s Thiago Braz da Silva is the reigning men’s Olympic pole vault champion after triumphing in front of his home fans in Rio de Janeiro four years ago.

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