RIO DE JANEIRO – Sam Kendricks said his biggest surprise at the Olympic Games was “learning a little samba by the cafe in Copacabana from the girl who made my cappuccino!”
It was no surprise that Kendricks won a medal in the men’s pole vault Monday night in Olympic Stadium, although the steady rain that started as soon as competition began made things dicey at first.
Once the weather cleared following a rain delay of nearly an hour, Kendricks, who came in with the second-best height of the season, took the bronze medal behind crowd favorite Thiago Braz da Silva of Brazil and defending Olympic champion and world-record holder Renaud Lavillenie of France.
Kendricks, who is coached by his father, Scott, missed at 18-10 ¼, then passed and went to 19-2 ¼, which he cleared. He just bumped the bar on his final try at 19-5 ½, which was ½ inch higher than his personal best to settle for the bronze.
The medal was the first for Team USA in the pole vault since Tim Mack and Toby Stevenson went 1-2 at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games.
Kendricks, a five-time U.S. champion and 2012 Olympian, graduated from the University of Mississippi last year with a commission of second lieutenant in the U.S. Army reserve.
“As a military man and as a U.S. athlete, I keep my haircut in order to put the best foot forward for all the soldiers who are watching,” he said.
“Those guys are really proud of me and have given me every chance to continue as a civilian,” he added, noting that he was proud “to represent the Americans on two fronts, as a military man and as a U.S. athlete.”