Who are Katie Nageotte's parents? Olympic pole vaulter taps spikes to honor dad before jumping
Olympic pole vaulter Katie Nageotte's late father Mark was her inspiration. 'When I do tap my spikes, I think 'alright, let's go, dad. Let's do it'
Katie Nageotte, a 30-year-old Olmsted Falls native, will participate in the women's pole vault finals in the Tokyo Olympics on Thursday, August 5. Following a weather delay in the tournament, she qualified for the finals on the morning of Monday, August 2.
Katie's Olympic debut comes after she failed to qualify for the 2016 Games in Rio, finishing sixth in the trials that year. Katie, whose career started at Ashland University where she won two NCAA Division II national championships, qualified for the Tokyo Olympics with a career-best pole vault of 16 feet, 2 3/4 inches in this year's trials.
Japan went ahead with this year's Olympics, even as games-related Covid-19 cases continue to rise, leading to several athletes pulling out of the event. With Tokyo facing a triple health threat, the Summer Games were very close to being canceled last minute. But that is not on the cards for Katie who is eyeing gold at this year's pole vaulting event at the biggest sports event in the world. Here's what we know about her family, who is a great source of inspiration to the athlete.
Who are Katie Nageotte's parents?
Katie was born on 13 June, 1991, to parents Mark and Diana. She has two younger siblings, Emily, 28, and Andy, 25. The athlete's biggest fan was her late father, Mark, according to Spikes. He was the one who instilled in her a drive to achieve greatness from an early age and was her biggest fan before he died of a heart attack in 2007.
He would spend long hours driving her to private sessions, learning everything he could about the pole vault — a sport he had never heard of – and encouraging his daughter to excel in any sport she chose, the news outlet revealed. Katie remembers those happy times fondly to this day. She taps her spikes before every huge leap in any competition with the word "Dad" inscribed on the inside. "When I do tap my spikes, I think 'alright, let's go, dad. Let's do it.' He's always in the back of my mind, and I like to think he's chilling off to the side somewhere watching," she said. In an interview with Cleveland.com, she quoted her father as saying: "'If you're going to do something, I want you to be really good at it."
Her dad was her strongest supporter
Katie's mother, Diane Nageotte, claims there are two stories of how Katie grew interested in the sport. Dave Godfray, the high school pole vault coach, stated he wanted some ladies for that event who had upper body strength, a gymnastics background and were "crazy fearless," according to Diane. Katie was a perfect match. She used to compete in gymnastics as a youngster, but she stopped after a year of competition. Katie preferred to attend friends' birthday parties and enjoy being a child, rather than going to compete, said Diane.
“Katie has her version,” her mother said to Cleveland.com. “She remembers watching pole vault and I said to her: ‘They are crazy. That is right up your alley.’ I don’t remember that, but who knows the truth. We’re all glad she tried it.” Diane added that Katie's strongest supporter was her father, who was "very proud" of all the kids and regularly attended their sports activities. Mark would attempt to attend all of Katie's practices and heed the advice of her instructors. Diane stated that he would then confirm with Katie what he had heard there.
Katie wrote on Facebook in 20019: "Always competing for you. Happy Father's Day, Dad! Miss and love you every single day. I'll be sure to tap my shoes a few extra times today. #braceface #wherearemyeyebrows".In another post dedicated to him this year, she wrote: "Flying to the Olympic Trials on Father’s Day is extremely fitting. I miss you always, but this year a little extra. Hoping to make you proud this week."
'Cheering me on regardless'
“He (Mark) found out about a pole vault club in Bellevue, an hour away. We would take her there twice a week for those 2 1/2-hour practices. She loved it. She showed potential early on. He was the one who helped foster her pole vaulting," Diane said to the news outlet.
Mark died of a heart attack in 2007 when he was 45 years old. Katie thinks about him all the time, especially at pole vault competitions, her mother said. “She writes ‘Dad’ on the insole of her shoe. Before a big jump in a meet on the runway, she taps her foot,” her mother said. “After her grandfather died, she began writing ‘Papa’ on the other." She described her daughter as “very energetic, always happy and outgoing," and that she wouldn't walk, “but skip.”
Katie told WKYC that she will miss not having family present at the Games, as fans are not allowed due to the ongoing pandemic. "My family was planning on coming, so that is going to be a bummer,” she said. “But when they announced that fans couldn't be in the stadium, I just said, 'Please don't come, it's not worth it.' I've always done better when family and friends have been there, but that's not to say I can't do well with them not being there. I know that they will be cheering me on. I've heard talks of maybe renting out a local bar in Olmsted Falls. I know that I have a pretty great support system and there'll be cheering me on regardless."
The pole vault finals at the Tokyo Olympics kick off on Thursday, August 5 at 6:20 am ET.