Sam Kendricks

Sam Kendricks

  2013 Summer Universiade, Kazan: men's pole vault gold. 

As has so often been the case, excelling at a Summer Universiade has been a precursor to excelling at senior global level.

That certainly held true for United States pole vaulter Sam Kendricks. 

By the time he competed aged 20 at the 2013 Summer Universiade in the Russian city of Kazan, Kendricks - who attended the University of Mississippi - was already the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) champion.

He carried the confidence of that victory at Hayward Field in Eugene over to the Games in Kazan, where he took gold on countback from Japan's Seito Yamamoto. Both had cleared 5.60 metres, with Nikita Filippov of Kazakhstan winning bronze on 5.50m.

A year later, Kendricks retained his NCAA title and then turned professional. Within a year he was the US outdoor champion with 5.75m, finishing ninth at the Beijing 2015 World Championships.

A year later, by which time he was a first lieutenant in the United States Army Reserve, Kendricks emerged into the international limelight by winning bronze at the Rio 2016 Olympics with 5.85m behind home winner Thiago Braz, who won in an area record of 6.00m, and France's defending champion Renaud Lavillenie, who cleared 5.98m.

Sam Kendricks excelled at university level before exploding onto the world stage ©Getty Images
Sam Kendricks excelled at university level before exploding onto the world stage ©Getty Images

Kendricks had won silver at that year's World Indoor Championships, and added another two years later, but it was the outdoor World Championships where he earned his global golds.

At the London 2017 edition he took gold with 5.95m, in front of Poland's Piotr Lisek, who cleared 5.89m, beating Lavillenie on countback.

Two years later in Doha the amiable Kendricks was faced with the inexorably rising talent of Sweden's 19-year-old European champion Mondo Duplantis, beating him on countback after both had cleared 5.97m, with Lisek taking bronze on 5.87m.

Kendricks' hopes of earning another medal at the Tokyo 2020 Games were shattered, however, when he tested positive for COVID-19 in the Olympic Village and was obliged to quarantine for a mandatory period of 14 days at a Government hotel.

That experience left mental scars that took a long while to heal.