U.S. Pole Vault Champion Tests Positive For COVID-19, Out Of Tokyo Olympics

By Jason Hall

July 29, 2021

2020 U.S. Olympic Track & Field Team Trials - Day 4
Photo: Getty Images

One of Team USA's top track and field contenders for a Gold medal has been ruled out of the ongoing pandemic-delayed Tokyo Summer Olympics after testing positive for COVID-19.

Sam Kendricks, 28, the two-time reigning world pole vault champion and Bronze medalist in the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics, confirmed his positive test in a video shared on his verified Instagram account Thursday (July 29).

Kendricks said he had previously tested negative for COVID-19 twice at home, once upon arrival at the Tokyo airport and once after a 10-day isolation period before his most recent positive test.

"I’m in fine health, don’t worry about me! I’ll weather this predicament and isolation for the love of the game," Kendricks wrote alongside the video.

"MY TEAM USA! You are my team, and I’m not so far away. I am proud of you! My Family, my friends and my hometown, I’ll be home quick as I can back to the place I love most after I get out of this box. #teamusa"

The former Ole Miss standout is among 2,000 track athletes listed as participants in the Tokyo Olympics, the largest sporting event at the Summer Games.

Kendricks' positive test comes amid reports of a record 3,865 new confirmed COVID-19 cases in Tokyo on Thursday, surpassing previous records of 3,177 set on Wednesday (July 28) and 2,848 on Tuesday (July 27), Tokyo Metropolitan Government officials confirmed via NBC News.

A spokesperson for the International Olympic Committee claimed that positive cases within the Olympic Village were not spreading to the Japanese public.

"As far as I'm aware, there's not a single case of infection spreading to the Tokyo population from the athletes or Olympic movement," IOC spokesman Mark Adams said via NBC News.

However, 24 more individuals accredited for the Tokyo Olympics reportedly tested positive on Thursday, increasing the total of accreditation holders infected to 193, Olympic organizers confirmed to NBC News.

Kendricks' positive test was initially announced by his father and co-coach, Scott Kendricks, in a since-deleted Instagram post Thursday.

"Today in Tokyo, officials informed Sam that his daily test for Cov 19 was positive, So he is out of the competition," Scott Kendricks wrote. "He feels fine and has no symptoms. Love you son. See you soon. #rancho_olympia #polevaulting."

The Australian track and field team immediately placed its 54-person roster into isolation and underwent testing amid the report as three athletes were reported to have had casual contact with Kendricks prior to his positive test.

The three athletes -- vaulter Kurtis Marschall, who trained with Kendricks; Marschall's coach Paul Burgess; and pole vaulter Nina Kennedy -- later tested negative and all others were cleared to resume normal activities.

The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee confirmed Kendricks' positive test prior to his video announcement, tweeting, "Sam is an incredible and accomplished member of Team USA and his presence will be missed."

Kendricks is a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army Reserve and a seven-time medalist in the Olympic Games, World Championships, World Indoor Championships, Summer Universiade and Continental Cup.

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