US pole vaulter Katie Nageotte wins gold medal after rough start to Olympics

U.S. pole-vaulter Katie Nageotte’s gold medal win on Thursday came after a year full of hurdles. 

The 30-year-old Ohio native experienced a nasty case of COVID-19 and had to battle through side effects that lasted long after the virus had left her body. 

Nageotte’s first Olympics were off to a rocky start, as a tight quad muscle impacted her on the runway, causing her to miss two of her three attempts at the opening height — the shortest and thus the easiest to clear.

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Once she successfully cleared the first height, Nageotte continued to clear the increasingly higher bar until she was the last woman standing after clearing 16 feet, 1 inch. Athletes from the Russian Olympic Committee and Great Britain won silver and bronze, respectively. 

“I was nervous,” Nageotte said about her performance with the opening height. “I know my family got up very early to watch me. And I would’ve felt very bad if I made them get up at 6 in the morning to watch me no-height.”

The pole vaulter, who failed to make the Olympic team in 2016, said she was happy that Tokyo was her first Olympics “because if I had [qualified five years ago], I probably would’ve been complacent and just happy with that, being an Olympian.” 

Nageotte is just one of three women this year to clear the 16 foot, 1 bar and the owner of a new piece of hardware. 

“I think especially with pole vault, it’s a lot of hard work and a little bit of luck,” she said. “And I’m so grateful that it went my way today.”

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