The U.S. military is being represented by 18 athletes in Rio, but the first one to medal was pole vaulter Sam Kendricks. The former Ole Miss track star, who is listed as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Reserve, won the bronze in the men’s pole vault earlier this week with a jump of 19 feet 2¼ inches, becoming the first American to medal in the event in 12 years. He also may be the only American to stop mid-run on a jump during the event, which happened earlier this week when Kendricks overheard the national anthem while competing in the qualifying round.
He dropped his pole and stood at attention, and the video made the rounds on social media. NBC’s Olympics Twitter feed reposted the video on Sunday:
2nd LT Sam Kendricks stops mid-run to stand at attention when he hears the national anthem
“Those guys are really proud of me and have given me every chance to continue as a civilian. I am certainly looking to represent the Americans on two fronts, as a military man and as a U.S. athlete,” Kendricks told USA Today. “I’m just trying to put my best foot forward for all those soldiers who are watching.”
It’s unclear whether Kendricks was penalized in any way for stopping mid-run, but it didn’t matter. He still medaled and ultimately won praise for his act. He isn’t the only one who has stopped what he was doing to pay his respects during an Olympic event, either: Jamaican superstar Usain Bolt, while not an American citizen or U.S. soldier, once stopped in the middle of a live interview with Television Espanola to listen to the U.S. national anthem after one of his races in 2012.