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Katie Nageotte missed on her first two attempts in the women’s Olympic pole vault final, putting her in a precarious spot.
One more and she would be out of the competition.
“Started a little messy,” she said. “Made my coach a little nervous.”
But Nageotte rallied and came back not only to clear the bar and move on, but to win the gold medal.
Nageotte’s vault of 16 feet 0 ¾ inches on Thursday night at Olympic Stadium helped her become the third American woman to win the event, which has been contested at the Olympics since the Sydney Games in 2000.
Anzhelika Sidorova, competing as an authorized neutral athlete, took silver, Holly Bradshaw of Britain bronze.
“It’s pretty surreal,” Nageotte, 30, said of the vault that gave her the victory. “I hate to be that person that complains about a good result, but that jump was less than perfect. Coming in I was very flat and I did not think I was going to clear it, which is why I was so excited that I did.
“I was in shock because I’ve never felt like that coming through the jump and then clearing the bar. So, I was ecstatic, but I also knew that I couldn’t get ahead of myself.”
Nageotte, who grew up in Ohio, is accustomed to comebacks: Earlier this year she contracted COVID-19.
“It was ugly at times, my coach can attest to that,” she said. “It was not the best of times. It was very frustrating.
“There were definitely moments of, ‘Can I keep doing this?’ after this year because if it’s going to feel like this I don’t know if I can come in every day feeling this bad on the runway.”
Nageotte said she focused on sleeping and nutrition. She also went to a concussion clinic because the symptoms she was experiencing were similar.
“I was doing everything I could, but at the same it just took time being away from it,” she said.
After the gold medal was secured on Thursday, she prepared to attempt clearing 16-5 ¼ for an American record. But she pulled up.
“The emotion of winning just, it all crashed down on me,” she said. “I tried to get back in that mentality but the moment I pushed out I realized I didn’t have the same power output, and it just would have been dangerous at that point to try, so I called it.
“But I mean I’m not too mad about it.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.