2021 Olympic Games

The Ultimate Garden Clash Was Fun, Quirky And Controversial

The Ultimate Garden Clash Was Fun, Quirky And Controversial

The inaugural Ultimate Garden Clash was track and field like we've never seen it. It ended in controversial fashion.

May 3, 2020 by Lincoln Shryack
The Ultimate Garden Clash Was Fun, Quirky And Controversial

It was track and field with air pods and white boards— the Ultimate Garden Clash, a three-way pole vault competition between Mondo Duplantis, Renaud Lavillenie and Sam Kendricks in their respective backyards, er, gardens, took place on Sunday in the first athletics competition since the pandemic wiped out sports across the world.

It was the closest thing to a pole vault home run derby— the three greats attempted to clear 5.00m as many times as they could in a 30 minute window. The height was much less significant than the volume as the bar only fell twice between the three men.

It was both more and less glamour than the pole vault attracts in normal circumstances. More because 13,000 people were entirely focused on the pole vault, and less because Mondo literally had to do IT work to reboot his connection from Louisiana.

The outcome was also hilariously on brand for a sport that attracts controversy wherever it can find it. In the end, Lavillenie and Mondo tied with 36 clearances as the completely exhausted Frenchmen refused an overtime period that the 20-year-old desperately wanted to occur. It was a fitting conclusion for Lavillenie, whom the emcee, Rob Walker, more than once referred to as the “old guy.” (Lavillenie is 33.)

Lavillenie said he didn’t want to risk injury by tacking on a three minute bonus period, a reality that seemed to horrify a lively Mondo. As the World Athletics stream wrapped up, conspiracy Mondo tried to add another clearance to his total.

Hey, when you’ve already set two world records in 2020, it’s not exactly natural to let one go.

Minus the technical glitch near the end, the event mostly went to plan. Sam Kendricks came in third but the appearances of a cowboy hat (his dad’s), a horse and an American flag ensured that his personality was well-represented. Mondo’s dad, Greg, switched from writing his son’s tally on a white board to individual sheets of paper once it became clear that viewers couldn’t read the board. And Lavillenie’s daughter even took a brief trip down the runway.

Who knows if this inaugural event will pave the way for more garden track and field— Ashton Eaton called for a backyard decathlon during the stream— but even if this is it, at least we’ll always have this quote from Walker, referring to one particular Kendricks clearance:

“You could’ve got a hippopotamus between him and the bar!” This, friends, is what track and field looks like in undoubtedly the strangest season it has ever encountered.