Young aspiring athletes have been daydreaming in class or on a quiet summer afternoon in their backyard for generations about one day becoming superstar athletes.
For Lafayette (La.) High junior Armand Duplantis, though, it’s shouldn’t be classified as dreaming any longer.
After the incredible progress he’s made in the pole vault over the last year, it’s simply calling plotting his course.
On Feb. 4, he reached 18 feet, 9.25 inches in Baton Rouge to eclipse is old high school record of 18-5.
On Feb. 11, Duplantis ascended to 18-10.25 at the Millrose Games in New York.
By March 13, he established the new U20 junior record that was set in 1989 with a leap of 19-1 at the New Balance National Indoor in New York.
Then on April 1 at the Texas Relays, Duplantis reached 19-4.25 to rise to No. 1 in the world in the current outdoors season.
“Ever since I was so young, it was always the thing,” Duplantis said. “I wanted to become an Olympic pole vaulter, I want to win the Olympic gold medal and break the world record and then I wanted to do all the things the best pole vaulter that ever lived would do.
“It kind of didn’t start to become so real until this year. It was always more of a dream. This year, it’s becoming more realistic for me.”
The 17-year-old Duplantis has actually been setting worldwide age group records since he was 7. Still, the incredible season he’s currently enjoying has surprised even his mother Helena, who along with his father Greg, coach their youngest of three sons.
“This year, he has,” mom said. “Our goal was to make the qualifying standard for the world championships. What’s shocking is if you know pole vaulting, the name of the game is to get on the biggest pole that you can get.
“If you can handle a big pole, you can jump pretty high. For his physical ability, he’s doing very humongous poles. A lot of people think that’s kind of amazing. That’s one of the reasons why he can jump so high. He can handle those poles.”
While most of his classmates are already counting the days down to summer vacation, Duplantis already has his plans for his summer pole vaulting schedule.
They include the European Championships in July in Italy and then the World Championships in August in London.
These days, he’s settling for breaking national and world records nearly every time he jumps and continuing his pursuit of Olympic fame in Tokyo in 2020.
“I think it’ll be more in my head when it’s the Olympic year and getting close to the Olympics,” Duplantis said. “For now, still focusing on the world championships this summer.
“It’s getting more realistic now that I can go to Olympics and hopefully win the gold medal. It’s not something that’s overpowering my brain.”
Perhaps when that time comes, Duplantis’ mega-star power in these parts will explode. In many ways, it already has in his mother’s native land of Sweden.
“In Sweden, he’s a pretty hot topic,” she laughed.
For example, Lafayette High girls track coach Ron Baillargeon posted a video of Duplantis’ 19-1 leap on his Mighty Lions’ track Facebook account on March 15 and it’s already gotten over 21 million hits worldwide.
For now, though, Duplantis is able to walk the halls at Lafayette High without any fear of being mobbed for autographs or pictures.
“I guess maybe my close friends (know worldwide impact),” Duplantis said. “When I’m walking in the halls, no it’s not usually a big deal.”
So really, no autograph requests yet?
“No, not over here,” Duplantis laughed. “I think I’d be kind of surprised, unless they follow track.”
Most of the time, he’s perfectly fine with blazing new pole vaulting trails worldwide in the relative peace of football and baseball country.
“It kind of just depends,” Duplantis said. “Sometimes when I’m here, maybe I’d want a little more attention.
“Then when I’m in Sweden and there’s people all over me, then I’m like OK, I kind of wish I was back home.”