Swedish pole vault world record holder Armand ‘Mondo’ Duplantis led a raft of stand-out athletes safely through qualifiers into finals at the European championships in Rome on Monday.
The morning session at the Stadio Olimpico featured a host of global stars, with France’s world decathlon record holder Kevin Mayer also competing in the hope of accruing the points needed to ensure qualification for the Paris Olympics that begin next month.
Mayer timed 10.72 seconds for the opening 100m before going out to 7.37 metres in the long jump.
Duplantis, the Olympic and two-time world champion, is bidding for a third successive European title and it would take a brave punter to bet against the US-born Swede.
He currently dominates the pole vault. This season alone, he has already won a second world indoor title and bettered his own world record to 6.24m. No other vaulters come close.
The 24-year-old only vaulted once, clearing 5.60m to ensure his place in tomorrow’s final.
“My first aim here is to win the gold medal and of course, I am trying to jump high,” said Duplantis. “I was very focused on today’s qualification.
“And then it is about jumping as high as possible. My big focus, of course, is on the Olympic Games. I always want to jump high so we will try to do something good on Wednesday.”
Norway’s Karsten Warholm, a three-time world 400m hurdles champion and two-time European gold medallist, coasted through his heat in 48.75sec, easing up a full 50 metres from the line in front of a sparse crowd.
“I love athletics. And to do it in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, that is a privilege,” said Warholm. “I just want to make sure that the crowds will make some noise for the final.”
Keeping composure
The women’s 400m hurdles saw defending champion Femke Bol, who won bronze as part of the Dutch mixed 4x400m relay team on Friday, also comfortably win her heat in 54.16sec.
Both hurdles finals will be held today evening, with Warholm and Bol clear favourites to win as they fine-tune preparations for the Paris Olympics.
Warholm’s teammate Jakob Ingebrigtsen made equally light work of his heat in the 1500m, reeling in the field from 300 metres in indomitable style to win in 3:37.65.
The Norwegian, already winner of Saturday’s 5,000m, will line up in tomorrow’s 1500m final as hot favourite to land gold, which would represent a triple double having already won both events in Berlin and Munich in 2018 and 2022.
“If you watched the race, you could see that I really did not do much,” said Ingebrigtsen, twice beaten to gold at the last two world championships by Britons Jake Wightman and Josh Kerr – both absent from this championships.
“It was all about keeping the composure and I tried to stay out of trouble.
“I could test my fitness and my legs felt pretty good in the last lap. So it was a good race and I am ready for the final.”
It was a similar tale for defending champion Keely Hodgkinson of Britain in the women’s 800m as the world and Olympic silver medallist safely negotiated her heat to advance to tomorrow’s final.
“Heats are always a bit of a reality check to be honest, because you never really feel that great,” said Hodgkinson.
“It is just hard because some people are trying to run their best race ever and you are trying to conserve the energy.
“So it is just a case of do not get complacent, do not get caught out at the wrong moment, do not get tripped up and also try and save as much energy for the next round.”
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