TOKYO — American pole vaulter Sam Kendricks, a medal favorite here and the two-time reigning world champion, will not be able to compete at the Games after testing positive for COVID.
Kendricks' father and coach, Scott, posted and then deleted an announcement on Instagram, but a short time later the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee confirmed the unfortunate news.
"We are saddened to confirm that Sam Kendricks tested positive for COVID-19 and will not compete in the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020," the USOPC tweeted. "In alignment with local rules and protocols, he has been transferred to a hotel to be placed in isolation and is being supported by the USATF and USOPC staff.
"Sam is an incredible and accomplished member of Team USA and his presence will be missed. Out of respect for his privacy, we cannot provide more information at this time."
The entire Australian athletics team of 63 athletes was placed in lockdown in their hotel rooms as a precaution after fellow pole vaulter Kurtis Marschall had close contact with Kendricks, according to The Sydney Morning Herald. Hours later they were cleared, according to the Australian Olympic Committee.
The Rio Games bronze medalist, Kendricks came into Tokyo as one of the favorites, one of three men to post a 5.92 meter (19 feet, 5 inches) clearance this year, the second-best height in the world this year.
The 2017 and 2019 World Championships gold medalist, Kendricks is one of the most beloved vaulters in the world, among athletes from other countries, men and women. He was a two-time NCAA champion at Ole Miss.
He is also the current American record holder at 6.06m (19-10.5), which makes him the fourth-best ever in the event.
Kendricks and his father built a pole vault runway and pit in Sam's backyard in 2018, which came in handy during the COVID shutdown last year, allowing him to continue training. He even joined with American-born Swedish vaulter Mondo Duplantis and French vaulter Renaud Lavillenie to stage a virtual competition in May 2020, the "ultimate garden clash."
The other two Americans who earned spots in Tokyo are Chris Nilsen, who has also cleared 5.92m this season, and K.C. Lightfoot, who had a lifetime best 5.85m (19-2.25) at the U.S. Trials. It seems unlikely that the event alternate, Matt Ludwig, would be able to get to Tokyo before the event prelims, which begin Saturday at 9:40 a.m. Japan time.
Duplantis, a pole vaulting wünderkind who was born and raised in Louisiana but jumps for the homeland of his mother, is the gold-medal favorite and has a world-leading clearance of 6.10m (20-0.25) this year.
It is unclear whether Kendricks has received the COVID vaccine. Here is the since-deleted post from Kendricks' father, which indicates that he is not experiencing any symptoms:
— Pole Vault Power (@polevaultpower) July 29, 2021
Later, Kendricks posted his own update to Instagram:
"I’m in fine health, don’t worry about me! I’ll weather this predicament and isolation for the love of the game," Kendricks said in his statement. "MY TEAM USA! You are my team, and I’m not so far away. I am proud of you! My Family, my friends and my hometown, I’ll be home quick as I can back to the place I love most after I get out of this box."
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