Fans of Olympic high jumper Darryl Sullivan will surely be watching how far the Illinois native can go in Tokyo, but there is something else you might want to watch out for.
While he will likely wear Team USA gear on the track, Sullivan will also have with him not one, but two very special lucky charms.
First, it’s a T-shirt made for him by his father.
“Your Highness”, can we read.
The jersey was made by Sullivan’s father before the Olympic trials, and it meant so much to him that Sullivan wore it with him throughout the intense competition – where he ultimately matched his career best.
“It meant a lot because, you know, we talk all the time, but usually it’s not more on a personal level, it’s more just to catch up and have him let me know he’s there with me and there for me, which I always knew, but hearing it is a whole different thing and it meant a lot to me, ”said Sullivan.
Could this support be what elevated him to Olympic heights?
“I had the jersey with me in qualifying, in the finals and I got to, you know, look at it the day before the finals just to really look at it and remember the jersey because I knew it was a big one. problem I had with me, “Sullivan said.” And he really wanted me to wear it but I couldn’t, I had to wear Tennessee clothes that day but I just wanted to make sure I was wearing it. keep it in my heart all day. I remember I was going to line up and so up to my bars I really thought about him. ”
While it would seem that “Your Highness” could relate to Sullivan’s high jump skills, in reality it has a completely different meaning.
“It’s a nickname he gave me growing up because whenever I needed something or asked for something, I usually got it,” Sullivan said. “You know, anything I needed for school or any need for the trail, whether it was trail tips or money to go on a trip, when I asked he would provide it to me – and my mother too. So to this day he always calls me ‘your highness’ when I ask for a favor of any kind. ”
But that didn’t mean Sullivan didn’t have to work for what he wanted.
“Growing up my parents really taught me, you know if this was something I needed [my dad] made me work hard, and you know, whatever I wanted, I had to work for hours, you know, doing some yard work, cleaning the weeds around the fence, cutting the grass, ”said Sullivan. “And even though I didn’t. I didn’t want to do it, it was something I had to be very meticulous about because if I didn’t do it right I had to go back the next day or the following weekend. So, I mean growing up in sports has always been something that I was concerned about, but I feel like through what he made me do on a daily basis with my household chores, my mom too, I was able to, you know, form a certain kind of work ethic so when I really wanted to do something that I was done that was something I was going to do like my life depended on it. . ”
And that mentality allowed Sullivan to take what was no ordinary path to Olympic status.
Having started out as a basketball player, with a deep love for dunking and an admiration for LeBron James, Sullivan didn’t realize his high jump potential until he was in high school.
“My last year in high school, that’s when everything changed for me,” he said.
It was then that he jumped high enough to attract the attention of several colleges. And after a rough start in college, his Olympic dreams began to come true in his senior year.
Enter, the Olympic Trials, where Sullivan did something unusual.
Sullivan decided to wear a tribute bracelet to a friend who died in a car crash in 2018 in Indiana, Aaron Porter Jr.
In a way, Sullivan carries the memory of his friend everywhere with him thanks to a tattoo on his arm that says “Strive for Greatness AP3”.
But the bracelet was a gift from Porter Jr.’s family.
“Run your run, AP3,” it reads.
“He was a big part of, I feel like, my training the last two years since he passed away – that is, a few years,” Sullivan said. “We both ran the track together, started playing football originally, and we had a lot of the same goals in high school, so we, you know, sort of clicked immediately.”
Sullivan said Porter Jr. was a “brother to me,” but he hadn’t actually worn the bracelet in competition before the Olympic trials.
“Kind of a different thing that I never do,” Sullivan said.
And it worked.
Sullivan equaled his life record with a clearance of 2.33 meters and took second place in practice. The University of Tennessee graduate became the first track and field athlete in Tennessee history to qualify for the Olympics in high jump.
He became an Olympian.
“Being able to make it happen is almost unreal,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan said he plans to bring both the jersey and bracelet to Tokyo as his biggest supporters watch from above and from abroad.
“Just knowing that they are all supporting me is something that you know is going to get me to drive,” he said, acknowledging that due to COVID restrictions his family will not be able to travel with him. .
And that motivation is something Sullivan hopes will lead him to a medal – and a new personal best.
“I think I’ll have to jump higher to win a medal at the Olympics,” Sullivan said.
And that’s exactly what he plans to do.