It appeared Vashti Cunningham and her older brother, Randall II, were very hopeful to become the first brother-sister duo to make a U.S. Olympic track and field team in 32 years.
Vashti, who made the Rio Olympic high jump team at age 18, won her first U.S. outdoor title in 2017. Randall, as a USC senior, cleared a personal-best 2.29 meters at the 2018 NCAA Indoor Championships, a height that would rank fourth among Americans outdoors that year.
Randall would win the NCAA title with that clearance, but he also fractured a tibia planting on a jump at the meet. It required surgery. He hasn’t competed since, according to World Athletics.
Vashti continued her ascent by earning bronze at the 2019 World Championships.
Then the Tokyo Olympics were postponed to 2021.
“Mixed emotions,” said the siblings’ father, retired NFL All-Pro quarterback Randall Cunningham, who also coaches Vashti. “On the one hand, I’m thinking, we’re prepared and ready to go. Vashti’s ready. On the other hand, with my son Randall II coming back, it gives him time to heal up a little bit more and get adjusted to jumping again.”
Vashti and her father spoke from Las Vegas with Mike Tirico on “Lunch Talk Live” on Monday.
The Cunninghams could become the first brother-sister pair to make a U.S. Olympic track and field team since the 1980s — notable pairs Al Joyner and Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Carl Lewis and Carol Lewis — according to Olympedia and the OlyMADMen.
Also in the 1980s: The elder Cunningham finished his high jump career in high school, clearing 6 feet, 10 inches, to stay in shape for football. That’s about three inches taller than Vashti’s personal best and eight inches shorter than his son’s best.
“I don’t compare to my kids,” he said. “I was OK. I wouldn’t have gotten a scholarship for track and field. They train a lot harder than I did back then.”
Vashti trains and competes in unique fashion. She participates sparingly on the Diamond League circuit and about 10 times per year total.
“We’re trying to preserve her,” her dad said. “I’m not trying to burn her out as a young kid. She’s only 22 years old.”
OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!Follow @nbcolympictalk