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Former Ole Miss pole vaulter puts Tokyo controversy aside, accepts Paris Olympic bid

Sam Kendricks
Sam Kendricks (Photo courtesy of Ole Miss Athletics)

Former Ole Miss standout pole vaulter Sam Kendricks has confirmed that he will be competing in the upcoming Olympics despite his continued discontentment with how things went down in 2021.

Kendricks on Sunday secured his third career Olympic qualifying berth, winning his 11th career national title in the pole vault to book passage to Paris on the third day of the 2024 U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene, Ore.

The Rebel track and field alum breezed through the qualifying round on Friday, and was equally as efficient in Sunday’s final, maintaining a clean sheet up to his eventual winning height of 5.92m/19-5 – a U.S. Olympic Trials record. But one question remained. Would he represent the stars and stripes come late July?

“I don’t like the Olympics. The Olympics screwed me. Everybody at Team USA left me behind. I don’t have any respect for the team. They just left me in Tokyo. If I make the team, I might not go,” Kendricks told reporters on Friday.

Those sentiments were espoused after Kendricks was unable to compete in the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 after testing positive for COVID-19 just before the pole vault competition in Japan. Kendricks, alongside four Australian track and field competitors, was removed from the Olympic Village following the Oxford High School standout’s positive test. It is widely believed that Kendricks, who did not receive a COVID-19 vaccine, contracted the virus at a party in Mississippi before departing for the global games.

After being removed from the field of competitors, Kendricks felt betrayed and argued that the Olympics as well as his team abandoned him, prompting him to insinuate that he may not attend this year’s outing.

However, the two-time pole vaulting world champion ultimately put his animus with the previous Olympics cycle aside. Kendricks on Sunday confirmed that he will, in fact, head to France as a member of Team USA later this summer.

“I’m still hot and heated about 2021,” Kendricks said. “I said that I may not accept my spot on the Olympic team — I will. I’m going to go to the Olympics.”

This is the third career Olympic bid for Kendricks, who was the bronze medalist in the pole vault in 2016. He is only the third athlete in U.S. history to qualify three times in the men’s pole vault alongside Bob Richards (1948, 1952, 1956) and Earl Bell (1976, 1984, 1988). Kendricks enters the Paris Summer Games in medal contention once again, currently ranked third on the World Athletics list at his season-best 5.95m/19-06.25 from the U.S. Indoor Championships this past February.

The Tokyo Summer Olympics will run from Friday, July 26 through Sunday, August 11.

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