2020 Tokyo Olympics: Team USA Alternate Had to Fly Last-Second from Ohio to Make Pole Vaulting Event

by Joe Rutland

Talk about making last-second flight plans. A 2020 Tokyo Olympics Team USA alternate had to catch a plane to be in the men’s pole vault.

Outsiders know about plans changing, too. But we’re talking about the Olympics here, OK? Matt Ludwig, according to a story from NBC Sports, was moving out of his apartment at the University of Akron in Ohio. He got a phone call.

Now Ludwig finished fourth in the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials. Therefore, he was named as an alternate but wasn’t planning to attend the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. That all changed when Sam Kendricks, America’s top pole vaulter and the favorite to win the gold medal, tested positive for COVID-18 and was out of the Olympics.

2020 Tokyo Olympics Became Travel Odyssey For Ludwig From U.S. To Japan

“Life sort of flipped upside down in a good way,” Ludwig told The Washington Post. “I would never have expected a call probably 36 hours before [a] competition that says, ‘Hey, you need to get across the world right now.’ But I couldn’t be more grateful or excited for the opportunity to do that.”

So Ludwig found himself at the airport, pole vaults in tow, catching flights that would take him from Ohio to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. He ended up on the pole vault runway on Saturday morning, where Ludwig cleared two runs at 5.5 meters. Three attempts at 5.65 meters, though, didn’t end successfully.

He spent 36 hours going from being an alternate to an Olympian.

“The dude got a 14- or 13-hour flight from Chicago to Tokyo, had six or seven hours of sleep, and then got on the runway and jumped two bars,” teammate Chris Nilsen told USA Today’s Tom Schad. “So the respect I have for that man is enormous.”

Ludwig may not have gotten a medal for his efforts, but he’s earned a lot of respect from his Team USA teammates.

Ledecky Had No Plans On Stopping After Her Success In Tokyo

Speaking of earning a lot of respect, Olympic gold medal-winning swimmer Katie Ledecky has a lot in her corner.

Some people may have wondered if the 2020 Tokyo Olympics would be the last time anyone sees Ledecky race for Team USA.

Well, Ledecky put those concerns to rest pretty quickly.

“That was not my last swim,” Ledecky said according to NBC Sports. “I’m at least going to ’24, maybe ’28. We’ll see. You never take anything for granted. You don’t know if you’re gonna be back at the next Olympics, so you just try to soak it all in.”

She won two gold medals and two silver medals in Tokyo. That gives her 10 total Olympic medals in her career.