11:49 AM ET
ESPN News Services
Katie Nageotte won an unexpected gold for the United States in the pole vault at the Olympics ahead of world champion Anzhelika Sidorova of the Russian Olympic Committee team.
Nageotte failed on her first two attempts of the competition at 4.50 meters but improved from there to clinch her first major medal, clearing 4.90 (16.08 feet) on her third attempt in the medal-clinching round.
“I know my family got up very early to watch, and I would have felt very bad if I’d made them get up at 6 in the morning to watch me no-height,” she said. “So that was definitely going through my head.”
Sidorova took the silver at 4.85. She passed on her last chance at 4.90 and moved the bar to 4.95 but didn’t come close to clearing that.
Sidorova’s silver was the first medal in track and field at the Tokyo Games for the ROC team. Britain’s Holly Bradshaw won the bronze medal.
Nageotte’s gold was part of a five-minute burst of action near the backstretch of the Olympic track that served as a perfect snapshot of what is going right and wrong for the U.S. track and field team in Tokyo.
After Nageotte went running up to the stands to celebrate, American 400-meter champion Michael Norman couldn’t sustain his quick start, finishing fourth.
The U.S. men’s sprinters, once the dominant power across the global track game, left the stadium without having won a single gold medal over the first seven days of the nine-day meet.
Nageotte joins Jenn Suhr and Stacy Dragila as American Olympic champions in pole vault.
After clinching gold, Nageotte taped up the pole, had the bar set at 5.01 and geared up for a chance at a U.S. record. She took off down the runway but pulled up short. She could not focus, given what she’d just been through.
“The emotion of winning,” she said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.