RIO DE JANEIRO – Cale Simmons, a 2013 Air Force Academy graduate, never fully found his groove Saturday night and failed to make the final in the Olympic pole vault.
“It was an amazing experience,” Simmons said a few minutes after his final vault. “I loved every second. I gave it my all.”
Simmons cleared 5.30 meters (17 feet 4.6 inches) on his third vault to move to the second round of qualifying, but failed to clear 5.45 meters (17 feet 10.6 inches) and was eliminated. His personal best in the vault is 18-8 1/2.
He struggled on all the vaults at Olympic Stadium. On his first attempt, he knocked down the bar with his right knee. He did not come close on his second attempt. On his third – and only successful – attempt, he brushed the bar with his chest.
In the next round, he knocked off the bar with his feet on the first two attempts. On his final vault, he cleared the bar, but knocked it off with his left foot.
“I thought I had it for a second,” Simmons said of his exit vault. “You can usually tell if your plant’s good. I thought I had it in the bag.”
Simmons was not supposed to be here. He was not ranked among America’s top 10 vaulters when he departed for the Olympic Trials, but delivered a clutch performance at the Trials to finish second and earn this trip to Rio.
Many were surprised by Simmons’ performance at the Trials. Ralph Lindeman, his coach at Air Force, was not surprised.
In an e-mail, Lindeman wrote that Simmons is “fearless.” His hobbies include rock climbing and sky diving. Simmons “got into trouble” as an academy freshman for jumping off the ceiling of the Cadet Natatorium and into the pool.
“That fearlessness has often allowed him to exceed expectations as a vaulter,” Lindeman wrote.