American pole vaulter Sam Kendricks tests positive for COVID-19, out of Tokyo 2020

The Rio 2016 bronze medalist, and one of track and field’s friendliest personalities, will be missed at next week’s event as chief rival to favorite “Mondo” Duplantis

American pole vault star and six-time U.S. national champion Sam Kendricks is out of the Tokyo 2020 Games in a detrimental blow to one of track and field’s most anticipated events.

Athletics - Copernicus Cup - Torun, Poland - February 17, 2021 Sam Kendricks of the U.S. in action during the men's pole vault REUTERS/Aleksandra Szmigiel
Athletics - Copernicus Cup - Torun, Poland - February 17, 2021 Sam Kendricks of the U.S. in action during the men's pole vault REUTERS/Aleksandra Szmigiel

The United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee announced on Thursday that Kendricks, also a two-time world champion, was isolating in a hotel after testing positive for COVID-19.

Kendricks’ father posted on social media that his son had no symptoms but was informed while in Tokyo that he tested positive and was out of the competition.

In 2019, Kendricks set the American pole vault record at 6.06m tying him with Australian Steve Hooker for fourth all-time. Kendricks later won the gold medal at the World Championships in Doha that same year.

The Louisiana resident is a first lieutenant in the United States Army Reserves and one of the friendliest personalities on track and field Diamond League circuit.

Kendricks, 28, is known for his close camaraderie with fellow vaulters, at times even helping and coaching them while in competition together.

“We have to move the sport to greater heights together, knowing that when we falter, another man will take the mantle of the victor,” Kendricks told the New York Times in 2018.

FILE PHOTO: World Athletics Championships Men's Pole Vault Gold medalist Sam Kendricks of the U.S., silver medalist Sweden's Armand Duplantis and bronze medalist Poland's Piotr Lisek talk at Khalifa International Stadium, Doha, Qatar - October 1, 2019. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: World Athletics Championships Men's Pole Vault Gold medalist Sam Kendricks of the U.S., silver medalist Sweden's Armand Duplantis and bronze medalist Poland's Piotr Lisek talk at Khalifa International Stadium, Doha, Qatar - October 1, 2019. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez/File Photo

During the Rio Olympics, Kendricks attracted attention when he abruptly halted a qualifying jump midway down the runway to stand for “The Star-Spangled Banner,” which had begun playing to honor the shot-put gold medalist Michelle Carter of the United States.

World record holder Armando “Mondo” Duplantis, 21, of Sweden said he was stunned to hear the news that one of his main rivals for men’s pole vault gold has tested positive for COVID-19 and will not be competing at the Games.

“I don’t really know that much about the situation, it’s just very scary,” said Duplantis, in a press conference at the Olympic Village on Thursday.

“As far as an hour ago I was still preparing myself for a big battle with Sam. He’s one of my main rivals, and somebody who was definitely going to push me in the final.

“I’m kind of shocked (by) this kind of spin on it. It still feels like somehow someway he’s going to be able to compete, but you know this is not looking good for him. It’s hard to explain the feeling.”

Duplantis set the current world record of 6.18m (20 ft, 3¼ in.) indoors in Glasgow, Scotland, in Feb. 2020. One week prior, Duplantis broke Frenchman Renaud Lavillenie’s almost six-year world record with a leap of 6.17m in Torun, Poland.

The dual Swedish-American citizen said he hadn’t had any contact with Kendricks, but would take extra precautions himself before the men’s pole vault competition starts on Saturday.

“I just won’t do things that I don’t have to do,” Duplantis said.

“I’m going to have to eat, I have to train. I’ll just try to not go out of the way and do anything that’s unnecessary (or might put) me at higher risk of catching Covid.”

Tokyo 2020 Olympics - Athletics - Preview Pictures - Olympic Stadium, Tokyo, Japan - July 29, 2021. Armand Duplantis of the Sweden during training REUTERS/Aleksandra Szmigiel
Tokyo 2020 Olympics - Athletics - Preview Pictures - Olympic Stadium, Tokyo, Japan - July 29, 2021. Armand Duplantis of the Sweden during training REUTERS/Aleksandra Szmigiel

Three members of the Australian athletics team also went into isolation as a precaution following brief contact with Kendricks, but were later cleared to compete after returning negative PCR tests.

A second announcement from the Australian Olympic Committee said: “Members of the Australian track and field team in the Tokyo Olympic Village have been cleared to return to their regular routines after earlier isolating in their rooms as a precautionary measure.

“The all-clear comes after three members of the team underwent PCR testing following a brief casual contact with a US track and field athlete who had tested positive to COVID-19.

“All three tested negative after undergoing a PCR Test this afternoon, while teammates remained in their rooms in line with Australian NOC COVID protocols.”

Rio 2016 Olympic pole vault gold medalist Thiago Braz da Silva seeks to defend his Olympic title, while French veteran and London 2012 champion Lavillenie, along with a formidable Polish squad, are also expected to contend in the event.

The highly anticipated men’s pole vault is scheduled for Tuesday evening, August 3rd, at Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium.

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