Why Won’t This Louisiana World Record Holder Be Competing for the USA in the Summer Olympics?
World record pole vaulter Armand Duplantis was born and raised in Lafayette. In fact, the 21-year-old's entire life, from grade school to Lafayette High to Louisiana State University, has been spent south of I-10.
So, why, then, when you search for Duplantis on Wikipedia, do you find this?
"Armand "Mondo" Duplantis is an American-born Swedish pole vaulter and the current world indoor record holder with a height of 6.18 meters and a world best (outdoor) of 6.15 meters."
Duplantis (a Cajun name if there ever was one), Swedish? What gives...exactly?
You see, in just about a month, at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, the Lafayette native will be competing for Sweden, his mother's homeland...and not the United States of America.
But why will the prohibitive gold medal favorite be competing for a nation other than his own? Well, here's the story from the New York Times:
If he had sought to represent the United States at the Olympics, Duplantis would have had to finish among the top three vaulters at the Olympic track and field trials in June. One bad day, trouble with his technique or adverse weather conditions would present the risk of having to wait another four years to compete in the Summer Games."
So, in a nutshell, Duplantis took the offer from the Swedes - a guaranteed ticket to the Olympics - rather than risk a bad day at the US trials and miss out on the 2020 Games.
Reaction to Duplantis decision has been mixed, with some saying he's turning his back on his country, state and city that gave him his opportunity. Meanwhile others applaud the move, countering that, at the end of the day, a gold medal will bring him wealth and fame and he should do whatever is necessary to increase his chances.
On July 31, at Tokyo's Japan National Stadium, Mondo Duplantis, the kid from Lafayette, will be wearing a blue singlet with Sweden across the front. And if he wins and he stands on the podium to receive his gold medal and the national anthem of a nation other than his own is playing...how do you think he'll feel? Joyous in the moment? Proud of a lifelong goal fulfilled? And maybe just a little sad that the colors waving behind him aren't red, white and blue.