US Pole Vaulter Stops Mid-Run, Stands at Attention for ‘Star-Spangled Banner’

2nd Lt. Sam Kendricks proved himself a patriot, and a fine sportsman.

By Nancy Flory Published on August 23, 2016

Patriotism was alive and well in Rio during the men’s pole vaulting competition. Army reservist and American pole vaulter 2nd Lt. Sam Kendricks stopped in the middle of his qualifying round and stood at attention for the National Anthem. The 23-year-old had just started his run toward the pole vault when “The Star-Spangled Banner” began to play during a medal ceremony in another corner of the stadium. Kendrick skidded to a stop, put down his pole and stood at rapt attention.

NBC posted the video online Sunday and it immediately went viral. Kendricks’ pause to respect his country did not, as it turned out, cost him a medal. He went on to earn a bronze in the Men’s Pole Vault Final. commented, “It may seem like a small thing — some may even say foolish — but man did we need that right now. After [Ryan] Lochte’s shenanigans and subsequent interviews, our national image was hanging like it was attached by worn duct tape.”

Kendricks’ sportsmanship was also evident when he celebrated the gold win for Brazil’s Thiago Braz da Silva’s pole vaulting performance. His enthusiastic spin at the success of his athletic rival earned a shoutout on Twitter.

Earlier in the competition Kendricks said he was “looking to represent the Americans on two fronts, as a military man and as a U.S. athlete,” and that he was, “trying to put my best foot forward for all those soldiers who are watching.”

Kendricks’ rise to Olympic fame was not a slam-dunk. Making the Olympic team was “so unlikely,” he said on his web page. There were a lot of doubters, but Kendricks didn’t let them stop him. “I don’t think they understood that we were just trying to perfect the basics of our event, using the tools God gave us.”

If he and his father, Scott Kendricks (“Coach K”) had written a list of things they’d hoped to accomplish, Kendricks said, they’d never had come up with so many wonderful events with “providential outcomes” in such a short time. “It’s true that we have worked extremely hard, but suffice it to say that we are just really, really grateful.”

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