Riebold’s Olympic dream squashed by USATF

The Summer Olympic Games are less than a month away.

This past week, the nation was glued to the Olympic Trials in the sports of gymnastics, swimming and track as the United States puts together its teams to make the trip across the pond to London for the games, which begin on July 27 with opening ceremonies.

One young lady, with Ohio Valley ties, will be watching the Olympic Track and Field pole vault competition with a very sour taste in her mouth from her couch in Central Ohio.

Jade Riebold – a graduate from Olentangy Liberty High School in suburban Columbus – is a standout pole vaulter at Eastern Illinois University. She’d cleared 14-ft-0 1/2 to qualify for the Olympic Trials, which are wrapping up in Eugene, Oregon on the Ducks’ campus at Hayward Field.

Riebold, whose parents Rick and Vicki (Winters) are 1980 Martins Ferry graduates, later learned that she hadn’t made the cut for the Trials because other women had gone much higher than the qualifying standard, meaning Rieibold wouldn’t get the chance to jump.

However, it was later learned that the three vaulters who declared their heights had falsified the information, and once the USATF learned of it, the vaulters were disqualified and not allowed to compete.

So, it was a break for Riebold, right?

Not exactly!

The USATF, which has had its hands full all week trying to decide how to determine breaking the dead heat in the women’s 100 meter dash, didn’t notify Reibold of her ability to jump until early in the morning, eastern time, on June 22.

Actually, it was several hours later that Riebold formally learned of it because she had her phone turned off during the night and was asleep. She got the message in the early morning of June 23.

Upon listening to her voice mail, Riebold immediately went to the Internet, trying to find a flight from South Carolina, where she was vacationing, to Eugene for that day, but none were available and the competition was scheduled to begin later that day.

However, she caught another break because of all of the rain that Eugene had been receiving the qualifying rounds of the pole vault were cancelled.

Or did she?

Riebold immediately emailed USATF officials about her predicament of the late notice, lack of flights, etc.

“I’d find a flight out tonight or tomorrow morning and get there in time to jump,” Riebold emailed USATF High Performance Manager Sariyu Suggs. “If I would have been notified that I made it in, I would of already been there, but no notification was given until 12:58 last night and no USATF member or anyone contacted me. This is an opportunity I would hate to miss out on as well as my dream.”

Riebold found a flight. So, she and her parents headed to the Great Northwest.

The USATF was unfortunately unable to help Riebold because of the rain. Once the inclement weather moved in, the USATF and athletes decided to just go to a final and scrap the qualifying rounds.

Sue Humphrey, who is the USATF Women’s Track and Field Chair, informed Riebold via email that even though the competition was pushed back 24 hours, only the athletes who checked in on Saturday would be permitted to jump.

The email to Riebold basically placed the blame on her for receiving her late notice from the USATF that she wasn’t checking the USATF website often enough for updates on appeals.

It’s just totally unfortunate. The USATF screwed this one up. Riebold was ready and willing to compete as she sat in the stands after making it to Oregon, but USATF couldn’t help her.

According to the report on Channel 10, Riebold and her mother, who made the trip to Oregon, are planning on asking the USATF to “establish minimum notification times for athletes before competitions.”

One of the other athletes pursued the appeal and it just so happened that Riebold was one of the beneficiaries. So, how would she know to keep checking the website? To me, that’s a lame excuse from the USATF.

The other two female vaulters, who were brought back into the competition, were permitted to jump because they’d already been in Oregon just as spectators, so they made it to the check in.

“I was out there in the stands, watching instead of competing,” Riebold told Channel 10 News in Columbus. “It was the worst feeling in the world.

“I just feel like my dream was kind of taken away from me,” Riebold continued. “Every day I prayed before I went to bed that I would be able to be out there on that day and it was taken away from me.”

You’d expect nothing less from an organization that wants to decide an athlete’s Olympic fate by a coin toss … hence the women’s 100 final.

Quite simply, the organization that’s supposed to promote American track and field not only nationally, but globally, has quite a bit of egg on its face this week.


  • IN CASE you were wondering, due to the Olympics, WTOV-9 has announced that the Rudy Mumley OVAC All-Star Classic will be televised live on ME-TV. The game had to be shifted to the alternate network because July 29 is day two of the Olympic Games competition and pre-empting the broadcast for prep football just couldn’t be done.