2019 IAAF World Indoor Tour: The Zen of Sam Kendricks


Sam Kendricks is one the nicest guys you could ever want to meet. Never, ever underestimate Sam Kendricks, as this guy is the Zen warrior of the pole vault. Allow me five minutes of your reading time to prove my point. This guy has heights to achieve and is also medals to win. His approach to life, to competition and to his focus reminds me of the focus of a Samurai warrior, protecting what is important, and focused on the present.

Kendricks_SamFL-Worlds18.jpgSam Kendricks, World Indoor 2018, photo by PhotoRun.net

It was Wednesday, February 6, 2019, and I have arrived at the headquarter hotel for the Copernicus Cup. There was snow on the ground, and it was about 2 degrees Celsius. I sat in the hotel restaurant having a bowl of vegtable soup, as Sam Kendricks and a friend arrived from Warsaw. Sam had hired a car, and driven with his poles from Warsaw, about 3 hours if you speed, or 4 hours if you are a safe driver. Sam made it in 3 hours. He was grabbing some soup, then, it was time to get a couple of run ups, and then, some rest. Sam look tired. As always, he was friendly, and we chatted a bit about travel his season and his focus for indoor 2019.

Kendricks_Sam-Pre18.jpgSam Kendricks, photo by PhotoRun.net

Sam Kendricks is focused, but he does not complicate anything. He stays on same time zone as he has in US, as much as he can. He sleeps 2 pm to 10 pm in Europe, he eats the same time, and he keeps his diet the same. "If you complicate things too much, you can not follow the program."

Look at this guy, he developed as a vaulter over nine years. In 2010, Sam cleared 4.68m. In 2011, Sam cleared five meters, a PB of 5.18m. In 2012, Sam Kendricks reached 5.50m. 2013 saw 5.81 meters, and 2014 saw 5.75 meters. There are highs and lows. in 2015, Sam Kendricks reached 5.82 metes.

Sam Kendricks won silver in 2016 World Indoor Championships in Portland. The nice guy was picking up medals. He finished 2016 with a bronze in Rio, the battle of Olympic pole vaulters, and also saw a PB of 5.92 meters.

In 2017, Sam Kendricks joined the six meter club, celebrating with Renaud Lavillenie, when he hit the big 6 meters (like a 22.50 shot put, 8.50 meters LJ, sub 27 minute 10,000m, and a sub 3:50 mile) on June 24, 2017.

Yet, through all of this, Sam Kendricks was a nice guy. His competitors liked him, they would laugh with him, and compete with him. Sam was also a great interview: thoughtful, funny and to the point.

Was it his military background? Was it the coaching relationship with his father? Why is Sam Kendricks such a nice guy?

It is real. You see what you get with Sam Kendricks. Sam has found, that with the challenges of being an elite pole vaulter, one must keep it focused, simple and live in the present.

Kendricks-Duplantis-LaVillenie-Lausanne17.jpgSam Kendricks, Mondo Duplantis, Renaud Lavillenie, Lausanne 2017, photo by PhotoRun.net

I recall an interview in 2017, in Lausanne, with Renaud Lavillenie, Sam Kendricks, and Mondo Duplantis. It may have been the finest press interview ever. It was not what they said, but what they showed. A respect for each other, an admiration for each other, and a focus on the jumping.

On February 7, 2019, Sam Kendricks explained why vaulters get along, and seem to have the most fun of any event in athletics. "We do not compete against my fellow vaulters, we compete against the pole vault standard. "

Kendricks-Duplantis-Stockholm18.jpgSam Kendricks, Mondo Duplantis, Stockholm 2018, photo by PhotoRun.net

Allow me some room to digress. Sam Kendricks reminds me of the Zen warrior monks in the 15th and 16th century Japan. They would come down from their monasteries, atop Mt. Fuji, and tell the villagers to live a simple, stoic existence. They would show by example. When the villagers would laugh at them, the monks would burn the villages down.

Now, Sam Kendricks does not burn villages, but he challenges the old jock stereotypes. He has burned, or removed the stereotypes about competition. In his Zen Buddhist like focus, his focus on the present, his enjoyment of the now, and his respect and absolute enjoyment of his fellow competitors, he has helped the likes of Renaud Lavillenie, Sam Duplantis, Piotr Lisek, and Pawel Wojciechowski enjoy the event. These guys compete all out, but they also know how to have fun. And besides the competition, the lesson that elite athletes teach the millions of young athletes is just this: you do not have to hate your competitors. Competing the old way wastes energy. Sam Kendricks is all about the present, the focus and the energy.

Lavillenie-KendricksR-WORLDi18.jpgRenaud Lavillenie, Sam Kendricks, World Indoor 2018, photo by PhotoRun.net

The Zen warrrior of the pole vault, Sam Kendricks has had six competitions so far in 2019: 5.84m, 5.86m, 5.78m, 5.90m, 5.71m, and last night, 5.61 meters. A couple more indoor events to go, then Sam Kendricks returrns to the States to begin his long drive to Doha, to defend his London World Champs title.

The @runblogrun tour of the IAAF World Indoor Tour, aka Le Tour de Larry, (including our visit to the 2019 SPAR British Champs)is sponsored by USATF and Nike, reminding you that the 2019 USATF Toyota Indoor Championships are February 22, 23, and 24 at the Ocean Breeze AC, on Staten Island. To purchase tickets, please use this link:


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