SE: Kynard, Rovelto Recap London Games

Cliff Rovelto recaps an Olympics in which he was the personal coach for all three USA high jumpers

Aug. 16, 2012

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By Mark Janssen

If you’re around a TV following the 10 p.m., news, flip the channel to ‘The Late Show’ as Kansas State’s Erik Kynard will be going one-on-one with David Lettermen.

“I guess he’s a big high jump fan, so that’s why he invited me,” said Kynard, who won the silver medal at the London Olympics last week.”

Laughing, Kynard quipped, “He’s had Olympians on all week, but I’m the last one. I guess he’s saving the best for last… Don’t tell that to the gymnastics team.”

Nine days removed from earning a position on the awards stand, Kynard said, “It’s sunk in… it’s all reality by now.”

And the reality is, Kynard, while being proud of his accomplishment, says, “I would have liked to have won, as always. I say that and people take it wrong, and I know silver is a big deal, but I went to win. I went to win, but I tell people it’s the best second-place finish I’ve ever had.”

The Wildcat senior continued, “Although I might not be as happy as others are with the silver medal, it is what it is, and I’m the Olympic Silver Medalist in my event,” said Kynard. “At the age of 21, that’s a great accomplishment. I’m moving on pretty quickly.”

Saying that he’s giving his medal to his mother, Kynard said he’s received messages from hundreds and hundreds of fans, which included “… seven or eight just fans who met me at the airport here in New York on Tuesday. It was crazy that just regular people would go to that kind of trouble to say hi.”

Of his personal Olympic experience, Kynard called the opening ceremonies “… really cool, but there was a ton of walking. I mean a lot of walking… a lot of walking, but it was pretty cool.”

Saying the atmosphere was that of any big track meet, Kynard did add, “When I put that USA uniform on, it became a bigger deal than I have ever experienced. It’s a different ballgame with that uniform on.”

For entertainment, Kynard said he went to the USA basketball game against France and was in attendance when the USA gymnastics team won gold.

“The place was crazy. Those girls are amazing,” said Kynard. “The atmosphere was like a huge track meet.”

With basketball, Kynard made it a point to meet his look-a-like in Kobe Bryant during the opening ceremonies.

“Honestly, we do look alike,” said Kynard. “LeBron (James) tweeted the picture, so it was all over internet.”

Watching Erik jump at the games were his father, Erik Sr., plus his grandfather, Lawrence, while the rest of the Kynard family cheered from Toledo, Ohio.

Looking forward to 2013, Kynard says he expects no letdown as his goal will be to make the USA team that competes in the World Championships.

His next stop, however, is the K-State campus where classes begin on Monday.

AMERICANS FANTASTIC: Rovelto said that the United States Olympic Committee had set a goal of 30 medals for the American track and field team to win, and it won 28.

“What was interesting was the number of meals won by athletes like Erik that haven’t benefited from all the dollars being spent from USA Track and Field,” said Rovelto. “There were several collegiate athletes, like Erik, that came home with medals, which tells me that we’re getting it done within the collegiate environment.”

HIGH PRICES: If there was a negative at the games, it came with the price of tickets that soared to over $1,000 for the men’s basketball gold-medal game and the track session that included the 100-meters.

Rovelto used the two tickets given to Kynard for being an athlete, but he said, “They had a face value of 150-pounds, or $225-plus, and were located in the upper level behind the flame at the opposite end of the stadium from the high jump.”

It didn’t stop fans from attending the events as Rovelto said the 80,000-seat track and field venue was packed for every session of every day.

CHINA COMING TO THE USA: The Chinese have become well aware of Rovelto’s reputation as a track coach.

Sometime this fall, six to eight Chinese high jumpers and sprinters, plus a coach and interpreter, will be moving to Manhattan to be coached by Rovelto during the next year.

“It tells you how some countries spend money in the area of track and field to better their athletes,” said Rovelto.

To Rovelto, he has no thoughts at all of his efforts being a help to the competition.

“Name me a major company – building computers, you name it – where countries aren’t helping, or learning, from one another,” said the K-State track coach. “Our university is full for foreign students learning from our professors in a variety of fields.”

ANOTHER EXAMPLE: As another example of what countries are doing to prepare their athletes to be the best was with bronze-medal winning high jumper Mutaz Essa Barshim from Qatar.

“He’s making a huge amount of money from their federation or government – in the range of $500,000 – just to train, and his coach is from Poland,” said Rovelto. “We’re not doing anything close to that for our athletes.”

Several of the Jamaican sprinters also got their background training at different schools around the country, which tells Rovelto that “… our developmental program for 18- to 22-year-olds is the best in the world, and that’s our collegiate system.”

ROVELTO ON BOLT: Rovelto had one word for the performance of Usain Bolt, who set an Olympic Record in the 100 meters at 9.63, won the 200 in 19.32, and anchored the 4x100 relay to a World Record clocking of 36.84.

“Phenomenal,” said Rovelto. “Remember, this is a guy who won the World Junior Championships in the 200 when he was 15 and running against 18-year-olds. He’s a phenomenal talent. He’s a tall guy, plus he’s technically very, very sound. He’s a guy very, very gifted with an innate ability, but he also trains hard.

“He won the 100 and 200 in consecutive Olympics, which has never been done. Never!,” Rovelto emphasized. “That is hard to do and may never be done again. To operate at that level and be the best guy four years apart is almost impossible. It’s nothing short of… I guess a miracle.”

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