Former Rebel Sam Kendricks 'May Not Even Go' to Paris Olympics After 2021 COVID Drama in Tokyo

Former Ole Miss Rebels pole vaulter Sam Kendricks still harbors some resentment for how his Olympic run was halted in 2021.
May 17, 2024; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Sam Kendricks (USA) at a press conference prior to the USATF Los Angeles Grand Prix. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
May 17, 2024; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Sam Kendricks (USA) at a press conference prior to the USATF Los Angeles Grand Prix. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Sam Kendricks, a two-time pole vault world champion out of Oxford, Mississippi, and Ole Miss, may not join Team USA in the 2024 Paris Olympics, even if he qualifies for the games.

Why? It stems back to the 2021 games in Tokyo where he missed the action due to a positive COVID-19 test. The pole vaulter spoke with media on Saturday at the qualification rounds where he admitted he still harbors some bitterness for how the saga unfolded three years ago.

"I'm going to give you an answer you probably didn't want to hear: I don't like the Olympics," Kendricks said to a reporter. "The Olympics screwed me. Everybody at Team USA left me behind. I don't have any respect for the team that just left me in Tokyo and didn't give me a quote or even post a team picture.

"So, if I make this team, I may not even go."

Kendricks did state, however, that he would "compete his best" at the qualifying rounds because he "respects the other gentlemen on the track."

The prospect of missing out on the Olympics doesn't seem to bother the world-class athlete. He stated that the games are just a small part of the sport he plays year-round, and after feeling wronged in Tokyo, he doesn't believe it's a necessity for him to compete in Paris in a sport he loves.

"I compete against the best guys all the time," Kendricks said. "Everybody doesn’t understand: the Olympics is for the mamas. It’s for the mamas and for Facebook and everybody back home who wants to have something to watch and a dog in the fight. But the sport is done every day for four years in advance.

"Guys like me are professionals all the time. Sometimes you don’t get the spotlight until the Olympics, and they think it’s charity. I don’t think so. I work all the time, and it’s great. I love this sport. I picked it. I picked the difficulties that come with it. And I’m okay with that. It’s just the Olympics didn’t like me back in 2021. Why should I like them?"

Kendricks competed for Oxford High School before coming to Ole Miss and winning national championships in 2013 and 2014. It was then that he elected to go pro, and he won the bronze medal in Rio de Janeiro's 2016 Olympics before claiming world championships in 2017 and 2019.


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John Macon Gillespie

JOHN MACON GILLESPIE

John Macon Gillespie is the publisher of The Grove Report and has experience on the Ole Miss beat spanning five years.