MANHATTAN — For someone who has never competed in the Olympics, Erik Kynard doesn’t view his trip to the U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene, Ore., the way you might expect.
Instead of a make-or-break competition that will decide whether he will advance to London next month, the Kansas State high jumper simply sees another bar to clear. No added pressure, just another challenge for a two-time NCAA champion on his journey toward a dream.
“I don’t aspire just to be an Olympian,” Kynard said. “If we’re talking medals, you know maybe being a gold medalist, then yeah, that would be an ultimate dream, or getting more than one medal. But I don’t aspire just to get to London and be there. I want to be in the mix … I want to be in the final.”
Before any of that can happen, though, Kynard must first jump in the preliminary round of the Trials on Friday. If he advances to the meet’s final and places in the top three, he will be on his way to London.
Doing so won’t be easy. He’s not only facing the nation’s best, he might have to do so in unpleasant weather. Forecasts are predicting highs in the 60s with a strong chance of rain.
That could create a more pressure-packed atmosphere than the NCAA meet Kynard won earlier this month in Des Moines with a jump of 7 feet, 8 inches. But Kynard doesn’t see it that way.
“I will be a little more relaxed there, honestly,” Kynard said. “… It’s not going to be easy, but I’m just going to go out there and do what I come here every day and spend five and six hours at a time in practice to do — compete and jump high. That’s it.”
Kynard left for the Olympic Trials on Thursday. He had hoped to leave a day earlier, but had to stay in Manhattan to take a test in a marketing class. He seemed more nervous about the exam than the upcoming competition.
After training him for three years, that doesn’t surprise K-State coach Cliff Rovelto.
“He just has to do what he has already done,” Rovelto said. “That’s easier said than done, but if you go out and jump at the Olympic Trials the ‘A’ standard level at this competition, that is going to put you in the top three.”
He doesn’t expect dreary weather to affect him, either.
“I don’t think it is much of an issue for him,” Rovelto said. “He has jumped well in the rain. I like his chances if it rains.”
Kynard has experienced the environment before. Four years ago, he went to the trials as a high school junior and held his own against older competition. But he didn’t make it through to the Olympics.
Since then he has enrolled at K-State, won four Big 12 championships, two national championships and has become one of the most respected young athletes in his sport.
This time he is hoping for more.
“I wasn’t satisfied,” Kynard said. “I told myself four years later that I wanted to be on the team and possibly win the Trials. That’s what I’m here for.”