Pole vault star Armand Duplantis said an extended phone call with his girlfriend kept him in the hunt for Olympic gold – as it stopped him meeting a COVID-positive rival.
Duplantis, the only man to have gone over six metres this year, was one of 14 men to go through to Tuesday’s pole vault final at the Olympic Stadium.
But the world record-holder admitted that he had endured a lucky escape after arranging a pre-competition coffee with American rival Sam Kendricks, who was later withdrawn from the Olympics after a positive COVID test.
Duplantis, who is known as ‘Mondo’, said that he didn’t make it as he was chatting on the phone with model girlfriend Desire Inglander.
The 21-year-old Swede said: “I was going to meet with him in the Olympic Village and have a coffee but I was speaking to my girlfriend for too long and missed it.
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“So it’s thanks to her that we weren’t together.”
Australia’s entire athletics’ squad had initially been quarantined for two hours after pole vaulter Kurtis Marschall was reported as a close contact of Kendricks.
With two-time world champion Kendricks’ withdrawal, Duplantis is clear favourite to land gold after clearing 5.75 metres in Saturday qualification.
“It’s so sad because Sam was in really good shape ad he always jumps high at a championships, so basically there is a medal spot free now,” Duplantis added.
Asked for his thoughts on Simone Biles, the US star gymnast who withdrew from the team and all-round events over mental health issues, Duplantis praised the athlete for speaking out on wellbeing concerns.
He said: “It can be tough as an athlete and it’s good that the issues are being raised now.”
Meanwhile, Kendricks’ positive test meant a last-minute call up for Matt Ludwig, who subsequently failed to reach the final,
“It’s been fast-moving,” said Ludwig, who had 20 hours notice to prepare. “There have been mixed emotions… amid drop-of-the-hat stress, logistics.
“I didn’t have a uniform before leaving for the stadium this morning.”
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