By Jaylon Thompson | Aug. 19, 2016, 11:55 p.m. (ET)
Sandi Morris competes in the women's pole vault final at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on Aug. 19, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro.


RIO DE JANEIRO – In her Olympic debut, Sandi Morris won a silver medal in women’s pole vault at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. 

“I told myself that if I could get any medal today, I would be extremely happy,” Morris said. “I am so happy and blessed as it is so hard to make it to this position. To come away with a silver medal is absolutely phenomenal.” 

Morris impressed throughout the event and nearly took home the gold medal.  In the last jump at 4.90 meters, Morris nearly cleared the bar. However, a small misstep in her technique caused the bar to fall. 

She tied with Greece’s Ekaterini Stefanidi at 4.85 meters. When Morris and Stefanidi each missed three attempts at 4.90 meters, Stefanidi was awarded the gold medal based on fewer misses throughout the competition. 

However, Morris was still happy with her performance. Morris was confident and it showed in her jumps. She cleared her first two jumps with ease at 4.50 and 4.60 meters and found a groove after making the 4.70-meter mark.

“It was exciting and fun and I was glad that we could put on a show for the crowd,” Morris said. 

Morris had also been dealing with an injury earlier in the year. She suffered a hairline forearm fracture after her pole broke mid-jump at the 2016 World Challenge Athletics in the Czech Republic. 

“It was seven weeks out from Olympic Trials and I had one week to prepare for trials,” Morris said. “To come off that and do this (win a silver medal) is pretty amazing.”

The victory continued Morris’ strong 2016 season. She also took silver at the world indoor championships earlier this year. Last year, she was the NCAA indoor champion.

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Victory aside, Morris was sympathetic for U.S. teammate, Jenn Suhr, who competed while suffering from a virus. The defending Olympic champion, Suhr finished in a tie for seventh.

Suhr caught a virus the day she arrived in Rio, and that has caused complications with dizziness, chills and fever. The virus got worse the morning of the women’s pole vault final. Earlier in the day, her husband, Rick Suhr, said she was coughing up blood.

Suhr was successful in one of five attempts. 

“It was really tough for me to watch as a fellow Team USA athlete,” Morris said. “I am just happy I could hold down the fort and win a silver medal by representing Team USA.” 

Morris was sad that Suhr wasn’t able to be at her best, but was inspired by her courage and determination to compete. 

“She is someone that I watched as a little girl and someone I aspired to be like,” Morris said. “She looked pretty dreary and I feel for her. It was unfortunate circumstances for her to get sick.”

After she leaves Rio, Morris plans to compete in a couple of Diamond League track meets and then focus on her preparation for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. 

“It was a moment where I tasted gold and believe me it will light my fire and drive me to Tokyo,” she said. 

Jaylon Thompson is a student in the Sports Media Certificate program at the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.