Father-son duo key to Oxford pole vaulter Sam Kendricks’ Olympic success

Updated: Jul. 27, 2021 at 10:00 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Pole vaulter Sam Kendricks of Oxford, Mississippi will not compete in his second Olympic Games Thursday after testing positive for COVID-19.

The United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee confirmed that Kendricks is has been transferred to a hotel to be placed in isolation. Before the the positive test results, Kendricks talked with Action News 5 about his Olympic success.

Mornings at the track are old hat for this father-son duo. Sam Kendricks brings the skill. His dad Scott, brings the support.

“A lot of people didn’t think we could do it,” Scott Kendricks said. “They didn’t think Sam had the skill, they didn’t think I had the knowledge and proving people incorrect, has been kind of fun.”

Scott Kendricks spent 19 years as the track and field coach at Oxford High School. It was always his dream, to coach his sons.

“We were out there playing around and we just got a new pole vault pit and had some HS boys who were practicing and after we got done, I said hey Sam and his twin brother Thomas, hey, do you want to try this?” Scott remembered. “I picked an event for Sam that he got to do, if he was a little successful he got to do again and again and again.”

The success came quick. By the end of high school, Sam Kendricks was a state champion pole vaulter.

“So people were like wow, this guy might be the next thing. And my dad was like, you know, let’s go back and fill in all the gaps. But, if you do it right kid, play your cards right, we might then have a shot at the big show. Just a small shot, a Mississippi sized shot,” Sam said.

When Sam walked on to the Ole Miss Track and Field team, his dad gave up his job at Oxford High and became his collegiate coach.

“I had already devoted seven years of intensive training with him and knew him better than anybody,” Scott said. “I knew what he needed and since I was going to be helping him on nights, weekends, summers, winters anyway, we just decided to do that.:

According to Sam, “Coach K being my right-hand man in college. It was really a gift and he did it without me asking.”

Sam won two NCAA Championships and the USA Championships as a Rebel. His senior year in 2014, he turned pro and his dad went with him.

“I had to ask that from me, because it’s bigger. Hey I need you to leave your home and everything you’ve built for yourself here. And I need you to come across the world with me,” Sam said. “That seems like a lot to ask of an old man for sure. He said I’ll do it with you for 2 years and if we make the Olympic team, I think I will have taught you enough and he certainly did.”

Two years was all it took. Sam won bronze at his first Olympic Games in Rio in 2016.

“For many years the experts in America were saying well Sam’s doing it wrong, he’s doing it wrong. Well he was winning NCAA Championships. He was winning USA Championships, we were like how could he be doing it wrong,” Scott said. “So he needed me there, he was successful, but we devised our own method to be successful and no one else knew that method. So, that intensive relationship had to continue for years in order for him to get to the Olympic level.”

In 2019 Sam set the American Pole Vault record, almost 20 FEET at 6.06 meters.

He’s won two gold and two silver medals at the world championships.. pole vaulting all around the world.

“Just being on the journey has given me a lot of satisfaction,” Scott said. Sam added, “He has given me all the tools I need to succeed on the world stage, for sure.”

Sam Kendricks competes for his 2nd Olympic medal in the men’s pole vault Thursday, July 29th at 7:15 PM Memphis-time.

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