Kendricks completes perfection
LONDON — American Sam Kendricks capped his unbeaten season by winning the pole vault at the World Athletics Championships on Tuesday as the title once again eluded world-record holder and former Olympic champion Renaud Lavillenie of France.
Kendricks, an officer in the US Army reserve, cleared 5.95 meters while Poland’s Piotr Lisek took the silver and Lavillenie had to be content with a fourth world bronze despite producing his best leap of the season.
Lisek, who tied for the bronze medal in Beijing two years ago, and Lavillenie, who won silver in 2013, both cleared 5.89 but the Pole took silver on countback.
Olympic champion Fabio Braz pulled out last month due to form and fitness problems.
Kendricks, unbeaten in 2017 after 10 competitions outdoors and one indoors, was again in perfect form as he moved through the first five heights without failure.
The 24-year-old, who barely picked up his pole for five months during the autumn and winter while on active military duty, failed his first two attempts at 5.95 before clearing the third to a huge roar from the crowd.
“It is all part of a mission for me. I make a goal and chop it down to make it attainable. I’ve finally got that world title and I could not be happier,” Kendricks said.
“It was another fantastic competition today and I had to jump high to take the gold.”
Kendricks doesn’t use as long of a pole, which means he must use military precision to eke the most out of his game.
“I was the best jumper I can be on a shorter pole than everyone else. Tonight, it handed me my victory,” he said.
Asked why he uses such a short pole, he shrugged: “Takes me less time to get to the bar — less time to make errors.”
A funny thing happened on his victory lap — he ran too fast and got a stitch in his side. He had nothing left to prove, but clearly prides himself in giving maximum effort at any time he’s out there.
Kendricks’ unit back in the US has been loading ships in South Carolina. He was given time off so he could compete.
“I’m glad I have a medal to show them,” said Kendricks, who trains in Mississippi and is coached by his father.
“Being a reserve officer means being on call when one of your soldiers needs you, and staying up to date with my personal fitness and to be ready when my unit calls me.”
After his lap was complete, Kendricks carefully folded an American flag and draped it over his shoulder, covering up the smaller flag on his jacket.
“Sometimes, the bigger flag is nicer,” he laughed.
Kendricks gave his flag from the Rio de Janeiro Olympics to his twin brother. This one is going to his girlfriend.
It was meticulously earned, too. He used a marker to jot down on his arm the takeoff points he wanted to hit during his run up to the pit. It worked, and he joins Brad Walker (Osaka, 2007) as the only American men to win a world pole vault title.
“We often consider ourselves the masters of the 1 percent,” Kendricks said.
“How can an athlete like me, who’s not necessarily at the top of the world in anything, numbers-wise, how can I be at the top of the world in pole vault?
“I can get a little bit better in everything, be a little more exact than I was the day before.”
Lisek had two failures at 5.65 and another at 5.82 before deciding to move to 5.89 which he cleared at the first attempt but the next height proved a bridge too far.
Lavillenie, unable to start training until May because of a foot injury, has been short of confidence and form all season and has failed to register a win in five appearances on the Diamond League circuit.
He had one failure and skipped two rounds before reaching 5.95m where he was agonizingly close on his second attempt, clearing the bar but nudging it on the way down.
Lavillenie then opted to move to 6.01 where his challenge ended.
Defending champion Shawn Barber of Canada struggled all evening and never looked in contention.
It is all part of a mission for me. I make a goal and chop it down to make it attainable.” Sam Kendricks, after winning the pole vault title
Sam Kendricks of the US competes on his way to winning the pole vault at the World Athletics Championships at London Stadium on Tuesday.