Two-time reigning world pole vault champion Sam Kendricks will not represent the United States in Tokyo after testing positive for COVID-19, precluding both a bid for his second Olympic medal and a highly anticipated showdown with world record-holder Mondo Duplantis of Sweden.
The 2016 Olympic bronze medalist's father and co-coach, Scott Kendricks, confirmed the news local time Thursday in a post on Instagram.
"Today in Tokyo, officials informed Sam that his daily test for Cov 19 was positive, So he is out of the competition," Scott Kendricks said in the later-removed post. "He feels fine and has no symptoms. Love you son. See you soon. #rancho_olympia #polevaulting"
The U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee later corroborated, stating Kendricks had been transferred to a hotel for isolation, supported by team staff.
"Sam is an incredible and accomplished member of Team USA and his presence will be missed," the NOC said.
Kendricks' close contacts were immediately notified, according to USA Track and Field, which said it was "following the USOPC and TOCOG's guidance on next steps to ensure the safety of the remainder of our delegation, and to offer support to Sam."
In a video statement posted on his own Instagram, Kendricks said he was "in fine health" and urged fans not worry, instead directing the focus to his team.
"My Team USA, you're my team, I'll always be rooting for the red, white and blue" he said. "My men in the pole vault, you're my friends. Go have a great time. Enjoy the Olympics. Miss me if you want, but I'll be on the road shortly after to compete in every other event. Hopefully we'll all have fine, long careers."
A native of Oxford, Mississippi, the 28-year-old is a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army Reserve and, until the positive test, was a gold-medal contender.
Chris Nilsen, who ended Kendricks' six-title national champion streak at last month's U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials, assumes the spot and role as top American.
Given the comradery for which the discipline's known, Kendricks' charismatic presence will be a notable miss from pole vault competition inside Olympic Stadium. And, consequently, Duplantis' probable path to victory simplifies.
Matt Ludwig, fourth at trials, is the team's alternate in the event. It wasn't immediately clear whether he'd be able to successfully join them in Tokyo.
"My friend Matt Ludwig … I would hope that you get on a plane soon and come compete in my stead," Kendricks said at the end of his video statement.
The Sydney Morning Herald subsequently reported that the entire Australian track and field team had been put into lockdown after pole vaulter Kurtis Marschall was confirmed to be a close contact of Kendricks', as the two had trained together recently.
"Members of Australia’s track and field team at the Tokyo Olympic Games are isolating in their rooms as a precautionary measure following news of a COVID positive finding with a member of the US track and field team," the Australian Olympic Committee said in a statement, per the Herald. "Members of the Australian track and field team are now undergoing testing procedures in line with Australian Olympic team protocols."
Men's pole vault qualifying begins Saturday morning in Japan, or 8:40 p.m. Friday ET.