By Adam Brown
Former Ole Miss Rebel pole vaulter and current two-time reigning world champion Sam Kendricks is headed back to the Olympic Games for his second-straight appearance.
Kendricks secured his spot on Team USA Track and Field on Monday at Hayward Field and will head to Tokyo for the Olympics.
At first, though, it looked like the six-time defending American champ was going to breeze his way onto Team USA. For only the second time in world history, 11 men cleared 5.70m/18-08.25, the only other time coming in the 2007 World Championship final.
Kendricks was clean over his first four bars through 5.75m/18-10.25 before missing on his first attempt at 5.80m/19-00.25 – his first miss of the entire meet after a perfect outing in qualifying on Saturday.
At that point, tactics started to play a large role for the entire field. Following Kendricks’ miss, he opted to pass to the next bar at 5.85m/19-02.25, where he would have two more attempts. The risk paid off, as Kendricks sailed over on his first try and was one of three to clear at that height, moving from fourth place and back into Tokyo contention into a tie for second.
“Absolute pride is the word,” said Kendricks to USA Track and Field. “There were 12 men out there that brought the absolute best tools they had to offer, and they respected the game. And they knew going in that they couldn’t all win.
“There’s this culture in my event that I wish we could share with the whole sport,” he said. “You just can’t make a generation of guys come together like this. We all say, going in, that it’s gonna be beautiful like this. That’ll go down in history as the hardest team ever to make.”
The Oxford native will return to his second consecutive Summer Olympics after a 2016 showing in Beijing, when won a bronze medal.
Kendricks’ father, Scott Kendricks, told HottyToddy.com how special of a ride it has been to be a coach to his son.
“When I was a young athlete, I wanted to go to the Olympics more than anything, but I just couldn’t get there,” Scott Kendricks said.“When I started coaching, I hoped to help one kid maybe get to the Olympics. I never thought it would be a late-blooming kid from my own house! For Sam to set so many records, win world titles and go to the Olympics twice? It’s just been a pretty unbelievable road. A true blessing, to be sure.”`
The 2021 games — still branded as 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics due to the yearlong COVID-19 induced hiatus — will open on July 23 and run through Aug. 8. NBC will broadcast the opening ceremony at 5:55 a.m. (CDT).