Vashti Cunningham to compete in Rio after Olympic trials finish
EUGENE, Ore. — Vashti Cunningham finished second in the women’s high jump at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials on Sunday evening at Hayward Field and will compete in her first Olympics next month. Chaunte Lowe, a three-time Olympian and the American record holder at 2.05 meters, took the win as she cleared 2.01 meters and Cunningham cleared 1.97.
Cunningham, the daughter of former NFL quarterback and her coach Randall Cunningham, is just 18 years old and graduated from Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas. In Rio, she will be the youngest U.S. track and field athlete to represent America since 1976. If she medals at the Olympics, she would be the youngest to do so since 1972.
Cunningham has experience at the global championship level, as she won gold at March’s IAAF World Indoor Championships. Days after the victory, she turned pro and signed a professional sponsorship contract with Nike.
Cunningham and Lowe present the United States’ best chance at winning gold in Rio for the high jump. No American woman has won gold in the event since Louise Ritter at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, South Korea.
Four years ago, Anna Chicherova of Russia won gold in London with American Brigetta Barrett taking silver. Chicherova will be unable to compete this year as Russia serves its suspension from international competition due to its rampant and state-run doping. Her name has also come up as one of the athletes that has tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs in the re-testing of drug samples from the 2008 and 2012 Olympics.