In professional sports, it's not uncommon for a popular athlete to bounce around from team to team, even helping different franchises earn championships in the process. You've got Tom Brady and the Pats/Tampa Bay Buccaneers, LeBron James and the Cavs/Heat/Lakers, Paul O'Neill with the Cincinnati Reds and the New York Yankees, etc.
But the Olympics are more about representing the country in which you were born. Even when Toni Kukoč was tearing it up with the Chicago Bulls, when it came time to play in the Olympic Games, he was representing his native Croatia. While it's not uncommon to see those who immigrated to the United States opt to represent the country of their birth, pole vaulter Mondo Duplantis is originally from Louisiana. So why is he competing for Sweden?
Why does Mondo Duplantis compete for Sweden?
The pole vaulter is originally from Lafayette, La., but was receiving offers from the Swedish Athletics Association to compete for the Scandinavian country and, by extension, represent them when it came to international competition.
He first received a recruitment call from the S.A.A.'s coach with an intriguing proposal in 2015.
The New York Times reported Mondo saying, "He would call me and my parents every day going, ‘You should compete for Sweden, we’re super well-organized, we’re going to take care of your poles, we’re going to do everything for you.' It sounded like a pretty good offer.”
You may be asking yourself: Don't you need to be from a country to represent it in the games? And technically, Duplantis does hold dual-citizenship in Sweden, even though he was born in the United States. Because his mother Helena is Swedish, he has the option of competing for the country. She's a former hepathlete herself (competing in javelin, 800-meter run, shot put, 200-meter dash, long jump, high jump, and 100-meter hurdles), so maybe the S.A.A. figured the apple didn't fall far from the tree.
Mondo (which is short for Armand) has fully embraced his Swedish identity, driving cars produced in the country, speaking the language in interviews, and even dating a model from the country, Desiré Inglander.
Doing so has enamored him to the Swedish public and as a result, he has made his name synonymous with pole vaulting.
It's hard to argue with Mondo Duplantis' choice to compete for Sweden.
The vaulter ended up clearing a whopping 6.02 meters and securing the Olympic gold medal. Chris Nilsen of the USA, who hit his own personal best in Tokyo, ended up taking home silver, while Thiago Braz of Brazil ended up getting bronze.
Duplantis comes from a family of athletes, too. His father, Greg, was also pole vaulting champion. He coaches Mondo on his technique. His older brother, Antoine Duplantis, plays professional baseball for the New York Mets and was a standout competitor for the LSU Tigers, where he's the all-time record holder for most hits in the team's history.
Although Mondo competes for Sweden and has adopted the country as his home, he splits his time between Stockholm and Louisiana. His parents were present when he won his Gold medal.