Sam Kendricks competes in the pole vault during the Weltklasse Zurich Inspiration Games on July 9, 2020 in Bradenton, Fla.
Pole vaulters Sam Kendricks and Armand Duplantis have one of the best back-and-forth rivalries in track and field right now, and this summer is likely to feature a major showdown between the two at the Olympic Games in Tokyo.
The stakes weren’t quite as high at the Diamond League opener on Sunday in Gateshead, England, but Kendricks will certainly take the win.
Conditions on Sunday were rainy and unpleasant — a photo of Duplantis holding an umbrella over Kendricks as he prepared to vault made the rounds on social media — but Kendricks still managed to clear 5.74 meters. Duplantis (5.55 meters) appeared to match it on his final jump and keep things going, but he just barely nicked the bar to end the latest installment of the ongoing battle between the two. American Cole Walsh was fourth, clearing 5.3 meters.
Kendricks, a two-time world champion and Olympic bronze medalist, beat his Swedish rival in the Diamond League Final in 2019 and then the results flipped last fall. Duplantis, the world record holder who will be making his Olympic debut this summer, also beat Kendricks last week at the Golden Spike meet in the Czech Republic. Before Sunday, Kendricks hadn’t beaten his Duplantis since the world championships in 2019.
Three other U.S. athletes overcame the challenging conditions and their competition to earn victories on Sunday as things continue to heat up as Tokyo draws near.
Sprinter and Olympic hopeful Kendall Ellis claimed victory in the women’s 400-meter. The former USC standout ran a time of 51.86 seconds to edge Jamaica’s Stephenie Ann McPherson, who finished in 51.96 seconds.
Hillary Bor was another big winner in the tough conditions. The 2016 Olympian won the men’s 3,000-meter steeplechase in 8 minutes, 30.20 seconds, edging Kenya’s Leonard Kipkemoi Bett, who crossed the line in 8:31.52.
Then in the men’s 200-meter, Kenneth Bednarek came around the bend and opened up a lead of several meters coming down the stretch toward the finish to win decisively with a time of 20.33 seconds. Canada’s Aaron Brown and Andre de Grasse, the reigning Olympic silver medalist, were second and third with times of 20.79 and 20.85, respectively.
Sha’Carri Richardson, who has the fastest time in the world this year in the women’s 100-meter, saw her 10-race winning streak end when she fell just short of capturing the victory on the rain-soaked track. She finished in second place in 11.44 seconds, just behind Great Britain’s Dina Asher-Smith, who won with a season-best time of 11.35 seconds.
Rounding things out on the podium, Maggie Ewen was third in the women’s shot put with a best throw of 18.54 meters. Portugal’s Auriol Dongmo won with a season-best 19.08 meters.