Aug. 7, 2012
LONDON - Erik Kynard had a goal of making the Olympic final in the high jump for Team USA heading into the Olympic Games. That was the goal before he could as he said, "bring any jewelry home." With his clearance of 2.33 meters (7 feet 7.75 inches) on his first attempt during the final on Tuesday, Kynard earned a silver medal and will be bringing jewelry home to the States.
Kynard performed well in cold conditions that saw rain fall briefly and he nearly came out on top of the competition on the world's biggest stage.
"Erik changed the whole tenor of the competition by making 2.33 on his first attempt," said K-State Head Coach Cliff Rovelto. "He did a wonderful job of staying within himself."
The back-to-back NCAA champion found himself in fourth place after the third height of 2.29 meters (7-06.00). His only miss to that point came at the previous height of 2.25 meters (7-05.00), but he catapulted into the lead when he cleared 2.33 meters on his first attempt.
Russian Ivan Ukhov was immediately behind Kynard in the jumping order and entered the Olympics with the world's highest jump this year. He responded to seeing Kynard clear on his first attempt by doing so himself and tying the score.
As competitor after competitor failed to clear 2.33, it was apparent Kynard was going to medal with three jumpers moving to 2.36 meters (7-08.75). It was only a question of which precious medal would be around his neck at the end of the evening.
Ukhov again cleared on his first chance after Kynard missed this time. Kynard elected to pass his next two attempts in hopes of clearing the next bar on his first opportunity. Again, Kynard missed his initial try at 2.38 meters (7-09.75), and Ukhov answered the call with a clearance. The bar then moved to a would-be Olympic record 2.40 meters (7-10.50) and both competitors missed eliminating Kynard. Ukhov elected to stop jumping and accept the victory.
"I was probably most impressed with his attempts at 2.38 and 2.40 as much as anything," Rovelto said. "He's come an awful long way in a relatively short period of time. We should all be very proud of him and what he did today."
Kynard has gained a reputation as a confident jumper telling reporters he goes into every meet expecting win. During a media session before leaving for London, Kynard said, "I'm never satisfied with second. Who is? Who goes into a game and goes, `Well, let's go lose.'"
The Toledo, Ohio native was just as confident going into the biggest meet of his life, and this time he may be a little satisfied without the victory.
"I'm here. I medaled so that's all I could do," Kynard said in a post-meet press conference. "Pressure doesn't burst my pipes. I have faith in my abilities. No stage is too big. This is the best second place I have ever had."
Kynard was not the only high jumper with K-State connections competing on Tuesday from Olympic Stadium. Jesse Williams, the 2011 IAAF World Champion, and 2004 Olympian Jamie Nieto were also in the field. The two professional jumpers both train with Rovelto, making K-State's coach the only coach to serve as personal coach for all three Team USA members in any respective track and field event at the Olympics.
Nieto nearly medaled in his swansong, competing as the oldest American male to ever qualify for the Olympics in the high jump at age 35. Nieto said he would retire after these games and he came away in sixth and almost cleared 2.33 to claim bronze. Williams struggled to get over the bar at 2.29 missing all three attempts and finishing ninth overall.
The two jumpers both had positive things to say about their teammate and silver medalist after the competition.
"I gave it my best. I was the old guy of the field so finishing sixth wasn't bad," Nieto said. "Erik is amazing. He is the future and the present. We all have the same coach, who is a great coach. Erik is a great testament to that."
Williams also had praise for Kynard after entering the games as one of the favorites to win gold.
"First of all, I want to say congratulations to Erik. He deserves this," Williams said. "I under-achieved big time. I'm in unbelievable shape right now. It hurts. I know I'm much better than what I did today."
Kynard becomes the first Wildcat current or former to medal since 2002 graduate Austra Skujyte won silver in the heptathlon in Athens in 2004. More impressively, the senior-to-be is the first Wildcat with remaining eligibility to medal since Thane Baker won silver in the 200 meters in 1952.
With his silver medal, Kynard is the first American to medal in the high jump since Rovelto-coached Matt Hemmingway also took silver in 2004. It is the 37th medal all-time for USA in the men's high jump and 13th silver. Russia is second in most medals in the men's high jump. Ukhov's gold gives him home nation a total of 12 medals in the event, seven of them gold.
There was a three-way tie for bronze among Qatar's Mutaz Essa Barshim, Canada's Derek Drouin (who still has eligibility at Indiana) and Great Britain's Robert Grabarz.
Kynard was not the only Wildcat living out his Olympic dream on Tuesday.
Class of 2012 Wildcat Jeffrey Julmis was representing Haiti in the 110 meter hurdles in the morning session at Olympic Stadium. The former All-American and Big 12 indoor champion finished eighth in his heat with a time of 13.87 seconds. It was not enough to advance into the semifinal round in the evening session, but it was still a great run after clipping the first hurdle and having to recover from the miscue.
"Actually, I can't believe he ran what he did after he hit the first hurdle," Rovelto said. "He hit the first hurdle hard and hit a few others. He had been going very well in practice and was obvious ready to run fast. To run that time after hitting that many hurdles is pretty impressive."
Julmis is only the second man to represent Haiti in the 110 meter hurdles and was a member of small contingency representing the nation that granted him dual citizenship. Only five Haitians made the Olympic team this year, four in track and field and one in judo. His time of 13.87 was good enough for 38th out of 53 of the best hurdlers in the world.
K-State has one more Olympian left to compete. Former Wildcat Darius Draudvila starts the decathlon Wednesday. The two-day event is set to start at 4:10 a.m. Central with the 100 meters up first in the cycle of 10 events. He is the second Lithuanian to be representing K-State in the Olympics this year and in the multi-events as former Wildcat Austra Skujyte finished fifth in the heptathlon on Sunday. She also had a front row seat for the high jump as she sat next to Rovelto watching the high jump.
Fans can watch the decathlon live online at NBCOlympics.com or follow updates on Twitter with the @kstate_gameday account.
K-State Olympic Results
Men's High Jump
2: Erik Kynard, 2.33m/7-07.75 - Silver Medal
6: Jamie Nieto, 2.29m/7-06.00
9: Jesse Williams, 2.25m/7-05.00
38: Jeffrey Julmis, 13.87