Army Reserve 2nd Lt. Sam Kendricks won a bronze medal in the pole vault at the Olympics, but his moment in Rio now seems likely to be remembered for something he did during a qualifying run. As he began his sprint down the track, the stadium PA began playing the National Anthem during a gold medal ceremony. When the athlete heard the sounds of the “Star-Spangled Banner,” he stopped dead in his tracks, turned to look for the flag and stood at attention.
Kendricks comes from Mississippi and serves in the United States Army Reserves with the 655th Transportation Company. He said that it’s the journey, not the destination, that makes the difference.
“They say back home, and jokingly in track circles, that if you win a medal it will change your life,” Kendricks said. “I think your life is changed on the way to that medal, honestly. With all the journeys and sacrifices that you make, all the training that you do, and the people you leave at home to watch. That is what is really the value of the (medal). I’m glad I have something tangible to bring home and show for it. I know that everybody in Oxford will love to see it. But the journey, like my coach says, is the goal. Not necessarily the medals. And it’s very fun to come and compete, but not necessarily the end of all things.”
Of course, because it’s 2016 and we’re stuck with dumb commenters on the internet, Kendricks has been widely criticized for not putting his hand over his heart as the anthem played, including a Twitter fight on the NBC Olympics feed. But a few uninformed idiots can’t detract from Sam’s accomplishment or his respect for the flag.