Bruce Kennedy, who qualified for three Olympics but never got the chance to compete, is convinced Camryn Rogers will step into the hammer throw ring at the Tokyo Games this summer.
Rogers, Cal’s reigning NCAA champion in the event, achieved the Olympic standard last week with a throw that was the longest by a Canadian athlete since 2015.
“To do that in early April, that just lifts that entire cloud of doubt,” Kennedy said of Rogers’ throw that went 73.09 meters (239 feet, 9 inches), exceeding the 72.50 required to compete at Tokyo. “Now she can focus on a longer-term program of preparation, technique work. I think it’s wonderful.
"She's the real deal."
Kennedy, 70, has developed a long-distance friendship with Rogers, starting with the fact that she has been awarded the track and field scholarship he sponsors. He resides in Santa Barbara but after Rogers won the NCAA title in 2019 she called Kennedy to share the good news.
“He is such a kind, caring, compassionate, driven man. I think every conversation I’ve had with him has taught me something new. Not just about sports, either,” Rogers said in the video below. “Just about life. Being self-motivated and being focused and knowing what you’re working toward.
“He’s such an inspirational figure. I just feel very lucky to have an individual like him in my life, who has experienced so much and has so many stories and so much perspective on the sport as a whole and on his career that he’s so willing to share with me.”
Kennedy qualified to compete in the Olympics in 1972, '76 and '80 but was denied all three times because of politics.
Rogers still must get through the June 24-27 Canadian trials to get to Tokyo, but as Kennedy points out, it’s unlikely three women from Canada will beat her at the trials and meet the Olympic standard.
“I think she’s positioned herself so well,” Kennedy said. “So the probability is extremely high she’s on the team.”
Kennedy is impressed that Rogers and Cal throws coach Mo Saatara have teamed for such a powerful start to her season after the entire 2020 schedule was wiped out by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Her winning throw at the meet in Eugene, Ore., last week was five feet better than her best mark entering this season and made her the No. 4 all-time performer in NCAA history.
“She’s basically had a whole year off competition. And that’s tough for any athlete,” he said. “You don’t just sort of snap your fingers and suddenly you’re back into it. For her to do that I think it was extraordinary.”
The long college season is often a issue for athletes who qualify for the Olympics because they can be worn out by the Games. Kennedy believes it can be an advantage this year.
“Camryn’s lucky that she’s getting a whole season of collegiate competition,” he said. ”Post-collegiate athletes are having a tough time finding competitions.”
Cover photo of Camryn Rogers courtesy of Cal Athletics
Follow Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jefffaraudo