Sam Kendricks took bronze in the pole vaulting event this week. The Ole Miss Alumnus became the first serving member of the United States military to earn a medal at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
Kendricks currently serves as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Army reserves in the 655th Transportation Company in Millington, Tennessee.
The medal was the first pole vault award for Team USA in 12 years. The last Americans to earn medals in the event were Tim Mack and Toby Stevenson in 2004’s Athens games, who earned the gold and silver spots.
Kendricks, an Army Lieutenant is a former five-time U.S. pole vault champion and also a 2012 Olympian, where he did not medal.
He is coached by his father, Scott.
Torrential Rain No Big Deal for Sam Kendricks
During the competition, heavy rains poured down on the field, delaying the competition for nearly an hour. Pole vaulters require a dry, clean place to plant the pole before they jump.
Sam Kendricks cleared 19 feet 2 ¼ inches to gain the bronze medal. The silver medalist, Renaud Lavillenie of France, was also the defending champion and world record holder, but he lost out to crowd favorite Thiago Braz da Silva of Brazil. Da Silva took gold and in the process became the first person to vault more than 6 meters in the Olympics.
Scores were 5.85 (Kendricks), 5.92 (Lavillenie) and 6.03 (Da Silva).
Kendricks talked about his military service and what it means to represent his country both as an athlete and as a servant.
“As a military man and a U.S. athlete, I keep my hair cut in order to put the best foot forward for all the soldiers who are watching.
“Those guys are really proud of me and have given me every chance to continue as a civilian,” he said.
Sam Kendricks will attend the Basic Officer Leadership Course this fall.