BATON ROUGE — As the countdown to this summer's Olympics in Tokyo nears zero, Mondo Duplantis eyes the ultimate prize, a gold medal.
The world's greatest pole vaulter was born and raised in Lafayette, but wearing Sweden across his chest, he carries two nations in his heart.
"I started just in my backyard in Lafayette maybe when I was around three years old," he recalls, home video showing a young Armond Duplantis, his given name, vaulting in his backyard. "From a very young age, always, I wanted to be the best. I always thought I was capable of being the best."
Today, Mondo is the best. The track and field world often holds its collective breath just waiting to see what the 21-year-old will do next.
In 2020, Mondo broke the indoor and outdoor world records. Post pandemic, he's picked right back up where he left off eyeing new highs in Tokyo.
"It seems like gold or bust, you know"
"It seems like gold or bust, you know," he said. "I mean of course I want to win a medal, and I think it'd be really special to be on the podium at the Olympics but the way that I'm jumping right now and I'm going in as the favorite. I'm the number one vaulter in the world right now. So, you know, I feel like it's my job to go in there and try to win the gold."
As Mondo has ascended, so has the status of his parents Greg and Helena. Both great athletes in their own right, they coached Mondo when he was three and remain his coaches today. Mondo competes for his mother's homeland of Sweden.
"I grew up going to Sweden in the summers. So, Sweden to me is, it really does feel like a second home," he said.
His dad remains a lawyer in Lafayette; his mom can usually be found with Mondo wherever his sport takes him.
"I think we have a really cool dynamic because my parents are still my coaches, they've been my coach's ever since I was, since I was a boy," Mondo said. "It's it's a really cool thing to be able to experience this journey with them."
But last summer the travel stopped, and Mondo found himself sidelined by the pandemic.
"I was in the shape of my life, just coming off the world record. I was ranked number one going into the Olympics and I thought my shot at gold was really good, and all of a sudden the pandemic hits, and my shot at that gold medal is put on hold," he said.
Mondo returned to his family's home in Lafayette. His training stalled as gyms and facilities locked their doors. For the first time in a long time, life was still.
"That was a silver lining of the situation," he said. "Taking me back to my parents house, being back with my brothers and sister and feeling like I was in high school again. In a way, life hadn't been that calm and quiet in some years."
But more than a year later, the Olympic games are in sight and Mondo's gold medal dream nears reality.
If he wins, it will be Sweden's first track and field gold since winning three in 2004 and it will be Lafayette's first.
"I'll be wearing the Swedish uniform at the Olympics in Tokyo. You know, there's always a place for Lafayette, because Lafayette made me the person that I am, and, you know, I hope, I hope to get support from the people there," he said. "I'm gonna try to make everybody in Lafayette proud and bring them their gold medal."
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