He is a last-minute, surprise entry for the Athletissima pole vault competition. American hopeful, Christopher Nilsen, who jumped 5m95 last year, has arrived on the shores of Lake Geneva. His particularity: He has beaten the phenomenal Armand Duplantis three times. "But only the last time really counts", he said humbly standing at a solid 1m98. “It was at university. Before, I had beaten him in high school (in the USA), but he is almost two years younger than me." Nilsen is a former football (soccer) player. “I was playing when I was younger as a forward in Kansas City. But I'm better at the pole vault, and it's fun." Europe will quickly get to know him better.
Arriving a little later for breakfast, which included a large omelette, at the athletes’ hotel, his compatriot and two-time world champion Sam Kendricks arrived in Lausanne from Poland.
He jumped 5m82 on Tuesday, his best performance of the season. “Mondo Duplantis will be the favourite, I give him a 70% chance of winning. My compatriots (Nilsen, Cole Walsh) and I are also there to put on a show. The pole vault goes beyond competition, it’s about camaraderie. Nilsen and Kendricks spent a good part of the day on Friday watching Japanese cartoons together.
Kendricks’ manager, former champion Jeff Hartwig (record 6m03, already present in Lausanne as an athlete in 1986), praised Athletissima: “It’s the best pole vault competition of the year. With Lavillenie and Lisek again, all the best will be there. During these times of the pandemic, it is important to show that athletics lives on. I pay tribute to the creativity of Jacky Delapierre”.
As a reminder, the two events, men's and women's pole vault, will take place at the same time in the city centre, on two runways set up in parallel at the Place de l'Europe.