SE: Kynard Wants Win, But Medal Would Be Fine

Cliff Rovelto is the personal coach for all three USA high jumpers

Aug. 3, 2012

By Mark Janssen

One would think that Erik Kynard would be an outstanding stand-still leaper, but he’s not.

Nope, this United States Olympian and Kansas State record holder in the high jump at 7 feet-8 inches has a modest stand-still vertical of only 28 inches. BUT, give him the opportunity to take just three steps and that vertical explosion goes to 42 inches. AND, give him 10 strides that cover a 70-feet, 10-inch approach… now that’s when he can high jump 7-feet, 8-inches, which is 16 inches above his head.

“All I can say is that I am very, very fast,” said Kynard. “I guess it’s all physics of applying force to the ground at a high rate of speed, which gets you off the ground.”

Sunday in London, Kynard will become only the 21st Kansas State Olympian and just the third male to compete in the high jump along with Ed Broxterman in 1996 and Nathan Leeper in 2000.

After training in Birmingham, England, for the last week, the Olympic high jump competition begins Sunday with a qualifying round in which 12 jumpers will advance to the finals on Tuesday, August 7. Both competitions take place at 1 p.m. (CT).

“My goal is to make the finals. You can’t medal without being in the finals,” said the K-State senior-to-be and two-time NCAA champion. “In 2008, the United States didn’t have anyone in the finals. With this group, that’s not going to happen again.”

Of being an Olympian, he said, “It’s an exclusive club to be in, and it’s an honor. It’s the biggest stage you can be on.  It will come up in everyday conversation for years, but it’s a meet where I want to come back with a medal. I’m just going to go do what I’m trained to do.”

And for Kynard, “My mindset is to win.”

While having to follow Olympic guidelines, Kynard flashed a smile when asked if he’ll replace his knee-high purple and white striped socks with ones that are red, white and blue.

“I’ll have special socks,” he said. “You’ll have to watch. I’m not going to talk about them.”

Kynard will be the sixth high jumper that K-State coach Cliff Rovelto has coached in the Olympic Games, and while cautious with his words, the Wildcat coach did say of his present day jumper, “At this age, Erik’s made more progress up to this point than any other guy I’ve worked with. That’s not to take away from any of the other guys, but that’s just how good he is.”

A clearance of 7-foot-7 earns a jumper an automatic trip into the finals, and to medal, Rovelto predicts that it will take 7-8.5.

Jesse Williams, who will also represent the USA, says, “The field is loaded. There are a lot of good guys who have the ability to jump a high bar. It took a 7-8.5 at the World Championships last year, and I think it will take more because there are so many guys jumping well.”

For the first time in United States Olympic history, it will be Rovelto who serves as coach for all three American high jumpers.

• Jamie Nieto: Eastern Michigan graduate… At 35, he’s the oldest USA high jumper to ever make the Olympics… Placed fourth in the Olympics in 2004 and also made the 2008 team… Has a personal best of 7-8 and 2012 best of 7-7… Is tied for 11th in the world.

• Jesse Williams: USC graduate… A four-time NCAA high jump champion and 2008 Olympian… A five-time USA champion and World Champion last year… Has cleared at least 7-7 in every competition this year… Holds a personal best of 7-9.25 and season best of 7-8.75… Is tied for third in the world.

• Erik Kynard: Kansas State senior-to-be who is 21 years of age… A two-time NCAA outdoor Champion and four-time Big 12 Champion… His collegiate leap of 7-8 is tied for fifth in NCAA history… Has registered a personal best and season best of 7-8… Ranks sixth in the world.

“The good thing about this group is that, while competitors, they’ll be pulling for each other just like Matt (Hemingway) and Jamie did in 2004 when they finished second and fourth,” said Rovelto, who coached both jumpers at the time.

Having competed in the 2008 games, Williams said his advice for Kynard will be “… to stay relaxed and not get caught up in all the ‘hoop-la’ of the games. Compared to even the NCAA championships, this will be like night and day. It’s an entirely different level.”

Williams would add, “All of us need to realize that the pressure is off. We’re Olympians… the pressure is off to become an Olympian.”

1920 – Ray Watson, seventh in steeplechase
1924 – Ivan Riley, Bronze in 400-hurdles; Ray Watson, 1500
1928 – Ray Watson, seventh in 800
1948 – Ward Haylett, USA men’s assistant coach
1952 – Thane Baker, Silver in 200
1956 – Thane Baker, Gold in 400-relay, Silver in 100, Bronze in 200
1968 – Conrad Nightingale, 3000 steeplechase
1972 – Jerome Howe, 1500; Ken Swenson, 800
1984 – Doug Lytle, sixth in pole vault; Kim Hagger, eighth in heptathlon (England)
1996 – Kenny Harrison, Gold in triple jump; Steve Fritz, fourth in decathlon; Ed Broxterman, high jump; Connie Teaberry, high jump; Chris Unthank, steeplechase (Australia)
2000 – Nathan Leeper, 11th in high jump; Attila Zsivoczky, eighth in decathlon (Hungary); Austra Skujyte, 12th in heptathlon (Lithuania)
2004 – Austra Skujyte, Silver in heptathlon (Lithuania); Attila Zsivoczky, sixth in decathlon (Hungary); Cedric El-Idrissl, 400 hurdles (Switzerland)
2008 – Christian Smith, 800; Korene Hinds, 3000 steeplechase (Jamaica); Austra Skujyte, heptathlon (Lithuania); Attila Zsivoczky, decathlon (Hungary)
2012 – Erik Kynard, high jump

2000 – Shelia Burrell, heptathlon
2004 – Shelia Burrell, fourth in heptathlon; Jamie Nieto, fourth in high jump; Matt Hemingway, Silver in high jump; Luigi Llanos, decathlon, Puerto Rico
2008 – Tom Pappas, decathlon; Jesse Williams, high jump
2012 – Jamie Nieto, high jump; Jesse Williams, high jump; Erik Kynard, high jump

We hope you enjoy K-State Sports Extra. We would like to hear your comments and any story ideas for future emails, so fire them our way. Contact either Mark Janssen or Kansas State Assistant AD for Communications Kenny Lannou.