U.S. Olympic pole vaulter Sam Kendricks turned some heads in Rio last week when he interrupted his pole vault during the qualifying round to stop and listen to the national anthem. Kendricks, 23, is a former Ole Miss standout and a second lieutenant in the 655th Transportation Company of the U.S. Army Reserves in Millington, Tenn.
On his approach to the bar during the qualifying round, he stopped abruptly on the track, set his pole on the ground, and stood at attention as the national anthem played in another part of the venue.
Even with that interruption, he managed to qualify for the finals with a jump of 5.7 meters. He went on to win the bronze medal by clearing 5.85 meters, becoming the first American to win a medal in pole vault since 2004.
“They say back home, and jokingly in track circles, that if you win a medal it will change your life,” Kendricks told the Clarion-Ledger. “I think your life is changed on the way to that medal, honestly. With all the journeys and sacrifices that you make, all the training that you do, and the people you leave at home to watch. That is what is really the value of the (medal). I’m glad I have something tangible to bring home and show for it. I know that everybody in Oxford will love to see it. But the journey, like my coach says, is the goal. Not necessarily the medals. And it’s very fun to come and compete, but not necessarily the end of all things.”
After several days of stories of the bad boys of the 2016 Olympics, it’s nice to be able to talk about an athlete whose actions you want your kids to emulate.
— U.S. Army Reserve (@USArmyReserve) August 22, 2016
Next page: The cherry on top of this story is the tribute Kendricks posted to his mother on Instagram right before the Olympics—grab a tissue!
My story started years ago in country house riding, running, and working with my coach, training partner and beautiful mother. The team has grown since but goal has never changed. Love the lord, strive to be a good man, and never let it cross your mind to give less than your best. These games in a few weeks are just a stop on this great journey together! #roadtorio #teamusa A photo posted by Sam Kendricks (@samkendricks) on