Aug. 6, 2012
This article appeared in Monday morning's edition of K-State Sports Extra. To have K-State Sports Extra delivered to your inbox each morning, click here.
By Mark Janssen
One would have to dig deep into the history books, but Kansas State track and field coach Cliff Rovelto "thinks" that this is the first time in years, "... and maybe ever," that all three Americans have made it to the finals of the high jump competition of the Olympic Games.
Sunday in chilly London, Rovelto's trio of athletes all advanced to the final field of 14 jumpers that will compete Tuesday at 1 p.m. (CT) at Olympic Stadium.
K-State junior Erik Kynard and 2011 World Champion Jesse Williams cleared 7-foot-6 on their second jump, while Jamie Nieto cleared 7-5 with no misses before missing three times at 7-6. All made the finals out of a field of 37 high jumpers that started the competition.
"You can't ask for anything more," Rovelto told K-State Sports Extra via telephone Sunday. "We had three jumpers and all three advanced and still have a chance for a medal."
He added, "I can tell you this, there are a lot of really, really good jumpers who did not make the finals, so sure, we're very pleased."
Rovelto said it was only 69 degrees at the start of the competition, which made it tough for all of the jumpers.
But he added, "Typically, 2.29 (meters; 7-6) is what it takes to advance to the finals, so we're right in the range where it always is."
Of Kynard making bars at 7-1, 7-3 and 7-5 on first attempts before missing his first try at 7-6, Rovelto said, "He did what he needed to do. He's in a big-boy league now and he competed like a big boy. He did a good job."
Rovelto said he had "no idea" what it might take to medal Tuesday. He only said, "You have to jump whatever it takes. It's as simple as that. Erik knows what he needs to do. He just has to jump within himself. If he does what he's supposed to do, he'll be fine."
In the 37-jumper field, six cleared 7-6 on Sunday: Kynard and Williams from the United States, Ivan Ukhov from the Russian Federation, Robert Grabarz from Great Britain, Andriy Protsenko from the Ukraine and Derek Drouin from Qatar.
Clearing 7-5 were Bohdan Bondarenko of the Ukraine, Mickael Hanany of France, Kyriakos Loannou from Cyprus, Andrey Silnov of the Russian Federation, Michael Mason from Canada, Wanner Miller of Canada and Nieto from the USA.
There was one major upset of the qualifying round. Russian Aleksandr Shustov failed to advance to the final based on misses. He took three attempts to clear 7-5, but because he took two attempts to clear 7-3, the No. 5-ranked jumper in the world will not have a shot at a medal.
While it's uncertain whether all three Americans have ever advanced to the finals in the same Olympic year, it is certain that it's the first time that one coach has been the coach of all three high jumpers.
Rovelto tutors Kynard at K-State, who is a two-time NCAA champion at K-State, while he is the personal coach of Williams, who formally jumped at USC, and Nieto, who jumped at Eastern Michigan.
Heading into Tuesday's finals, Charles Austin of the United States holds the Olympic Record at 7-8.5 in 1996, while Javier Sotomayor of Cuba has the World Record of 8 feet in 1993.
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.