Kansas State head coach Cliff Rovelto summed it up by saying, “Erik was Erik, and when Erik is Erik, he’s usually pretty good.”
“Erik” is Erik Kynard and Tuesday, he added another favorite color to his list that included Purple and White: Silver.
The Kansas State junior, who was ranked sixth in the world, placed second at the XXX Olympic Games in London by clearing the high jump bar at 7-foot, 7.75 inches to take the silver medal.
“I know this sounds crazy, but he’s a little disappointed because he came here to win,” Rovelto said. “That’s why he was second. He came here jumping to win.”
Rovelto would add, “But in all honesty, I think he’s still in shock. I think he’s in semi-shock.”
Rounding out “Team Rovelto” was 35-year-old Jamie Nieto in sixth place with a clearance of 7-6 and 2011 World Champion Jesse Williams, who cleared 7-4.5.
“I’m excited for all three of those guys,” said Rovelto, who is the personal coach for all three. “To have three Americans in the top 10 in the world is pretty neat stuff. It goes back to all of our guys just doing what we do, and this is what we do.
“I hope K-Staters are proud and happy for Erik,” Rovelto said. “To be second in the world in anything is pretty darn good. People ought to be thrilled to death for him.”
“I’m here. I medaled so that’s all I could do,” Kynard said in a post-meet press conference. “Pressure doesn’t burst my pipes. I have faith in my abilities. No stage is too big. This is the best second place I have ever had.”
While he would have been more comfortable in his knee-high purple and white socks, for the Olympics Kynard accented his Red “USA” Nike uniform with American Flag socks that helped propel him over bars at 7-2.5, 7-4.5, 7-6 and 7-7.75 before single misses at bars he had never cleared before — 7-8.75, 7-9.75 and 7-10.5.
Coming from the left side and jumping off his right foot, Kynard used a 10-stride approach that covered 70 feet, 10 inches as he first missed at 7-4.5, but was then perfect until only he and Ivan Ukhov of Russia remained in the competition after clearing 7-7.75.
“It hasn’t been unusual to see Erik miss at the height he did early in the competition,” said Rovelto. “It’s high enough that you have to give it respect, but low enough that you know you’re going to make it. His history is to have a miss at around that height.”
Down in the competition for a moment, Kynard put himself back in the gold-medal hunt by clearing 7-7.75 on his first attempt in rainy conditions.
“When he did that, a lot of jumpers puckered up pretty good,” Rovelto said. “At that point, it was pretty certain that anyone clearing 2.33 (7-7.75) on the first try was going to medal because the next bar is out of range for a lot of the jumpers.”
Kynard missed at 7-8.75, while Ukhov made his first attempt. Due to his early miss, Kynard was forced to jump at the higher bars for any hope of catching his Russian rival.
“Honestly, Erik had really good attempts at those higher bars,” Rovelto said. “There’s a reason that we practice at high bars and today you saw the reason.”
Placing in a tie for third in the competition were Mutaz Essa Barshim from Qatar, Derek Drouin from Canada and Robert Grabarz from Great Britain by clearing 7-6.
“I hope people understand how far Erik has come and what a good pupil he’s been,” said Rovelto. “I have never been around a kid who has worked harder. To be 21 and accomplish this is pretty amazing stuff.”
A two-time NCAA Champion at K-State, Kynard becomes only the fifth individual to win a medal from Kansas State joining the elite class of Ivan Riley (Bronze, 400-meter hurdles, 1924), Thane Baker (Silver, 200 meters, 1952); Baker (Gold, 400-meter relay, Silver 100 meters, Bronze 200 meters, 1956), Kenny Harrison (Gold, triple jump, 1996) and Austra Skujyte (Silver, heptathlon, 2004 for Lithuania).
For Kynard, it all started at home in Toledo, Ohio, where he cleared 5-10 in eighth grade, 6-6 as a freshman and then 7-0 as a sophomore.
“That’s when I thought, ‘I guess I’m going to be a high jumper’,” laughed Kynard, who went on to clear 7-4.75 as a senior. “It’s been a gift from God that I had to do something with.”