Sam Kendricks pole vaults on Oct. 1, 2019 at the 17th IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019 on Oct. 1, 2019 in Doha, Qatar.
U.S. Olympic bronze medalist and two-time world champion Sam Kendricks, France’s Renaud Lavillenie and Sweden’s Armand “Mondo” Duplantis are three of the best pole vaulters in the world, and they’ve waged some epic battles against one another in recent years.
Sunday saw the three competing in a very different type of challenge, however.
Using the wonders of technology, the trio of pole vault superstars squared off in the first-ever Ultimate Garden Clash, each competing in his own backyard. The idea came from Lavillenie, who won the Olympic gold medal in 2012 and silver in 2016, and the format was simple: clear 5 meters (16 feet, 4-¾ inches) as many times as possible over the course of 30 minutes. The competition was broken down into two 15-minute segments with a five-minute break in between.
All three are capable of clearing 6 meters — or just over 19 feet, 8 inches — but because none of their respective backyard runways are quite regulation they went for quantity over height. It was an exercise in endurance unlike what they typically experience in competition.
“When Renaud called me about this crazy idea I said, ‘Do you think you can do it?’” Kendricks said on the livestream before the competition started. “Seven-thousand miles and three different venues and here we are today.”
At the break, it was 20-year-old world record holder Duplantis, competing from his parents’ home in Lafayette, Louisiana, leading with 18 clears. The 33-year-old Lavillenie, who was in Clermont-Ferrand, France, was second with 17, and the 27-year-old Kendricks, competing from his family home in Oxford, Mississippi, was third with 13.
The competition ultimately came down to a showdown between Lavillenie and Duplantis, with Lavillenie taking the lead at 34 with a minute and a half left. The two ended in a tie for the gold with 36 clears and one missed jump. Kendricks finished with 26.
Last fall in Doha, Qatar, Kendricks became just the second man ever to win multiple pole vault world championships when he defended his title after a head-to-head battle with Duplantis.