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Olympic High Jumper Settles In for Golden Career

18 year-old Vashti Cunningham is the youngest U.S. Olympic High Jumper since 1980. The recent high school graduate won the 2016 World Indoor Championship before signing with Nike to compete professionally. Read Transcript


NARRATOR: Vashti Cunningham has a hop

in her step as the youngest woman

ever to win the high jump at the World Indoor Championships.

The speed you use, the turn, and the plant.

The technique, as well.

Every little thing that you do is

going to lead up to either success or failure.

NARRATOR: More leaps are likely to further Vashti's success.

She currently holds the Junior Indoor Record, clearing six

feet six and a quarter inches.

A high standard, much like the mark

set for being the oldest daughter of former NFL

quarterback Randall Cunningham.

High expectations.

And how did you deal with it?

People expected me to be, like,

the best athlete in the school because you're

Randall Cunningham's daughter.

And I was like, OK, he can throw.

And he can jump.

But I'm just trying to, like, figure out

what sport I'm going to be in.

You know, so I just kept doing what I wanted to do

and figuring myself out.


NARRATOR: Was also a high jumper in high school.

He's Vashti's coach while serving as a senior pastor

in Las Vegas.

You shoot for the best to glorify God,

do everything is if unto Him.

And if you don't get it, you're still able to say thank you.

And you achieve more than you would have

if you wouldn't have tried.

He won't let you down.

Trust Him.

VASHTI CUNNINGHAM: The greatest advantage

is having him as a pastor and a father-- someone

to turn to spiritually and in real life.

Situations where I don't know what to do.

Opportunity where, like, you can do this,

or you can pray about it and figure out the real solutions

to what God would want you to do.

NARRATOR: The options are coming.

She chose to forego college competition to turn pro,

signing with Nike.

But her new life isn't all business.

18-year-old Vashti still roams her dad's high school football

sidelines with a camera.

VASHTI CUNNINGHAM: I love photography

because it's a time where, like, I can use my creative instincts

and what I've been picturing in my head

to make something come to life.

But then there's times where you could see it

completely backwards.

And if you go with a different angle,

then people will see it from a different angle.

I just like that.

NARRATOR: She already brings a different skill set

to the high jump at her age-- an extraordinary combination

of athleticism, competitiveness, teachability,

and mental discipline.

We've seen shots of you having this stare-down.

What do you see when you look at that bar?

VASHTI CUNNINGHAM: I'm confronting the bar.

Like, letting myself know that I can get over this.

And my dad always told me, like, if you can jump

and your head can go over the bar,

then your whole body can go over the bar.

So I've always just went up and looked at it,

got on my tippy toes, realized, like, OK, you're

a little taller.

You can easily put your body into this.

Do you give it a little I-told-you-so after

you've cleared it?

Um, no.

I just look at my dad like, I told you so.

NARRATOR: Last summer in Rio, Vashti

became the youngest athlete in 36 years

to make the US Olympic Track and Field team.

Despite the hype, she didn't medal.

It's one thing that stuck with me at the Olympics

was God is setting my life up.

A really good opportunity to just get

my first big international meet out the way

for the road coming ahead.

NARRATOR: The high-jumping phenom

continues to create a buzz, inspiring hope for future medal


You could be the face for track and field.

How does that sit with you when you hear those things?

It's all about sprints.

It's all about gymnastics.

You know, basketball.

OK, I'm just a high jumper.

But to hear something like that is just heart-warming,

because people don't really think of high jump

as, like, a big event or anything like that.

And it'd be cool if I could be the person to, you know,

to introduce it more.

NARRATOR: As the sport's youthful, high-flying high

jumper, Vashti draws balance and sensibility

from her mom, Felicity Cunningham,

a former professional ballerina who empathizes with the demands

and discipline of performance.

VASHTI CUNNINGHAM: My mom really keeps me grounded.

She's always there also with the spiritual part and just,

like, high jump is not your life.

It's just a small part.

Like, it's not who you are.

It's what you do.

Our children are a gift from God.

I would have never thought, once Vashti

came, that this is what would have unfolded for her

and for her life.

The best thing is to be a parent and see

the wonderful gifts that keep unwrapping before our eyes.

I'm very thankful to the Lord just because He knew.

I'm just trying my best to keep doing everything

so that I can not be asking without giving.

I always say to myself going into a meet,

pray, God, please let me be the one to give You glory

at the end.

I said the Lord's Prayer throughout

the whole competition, you know, with more emphasis

the next time so that I can really feel it moving in me.

NARRATOR: The teen-turned-champion

is raising the bar of achievement

as she jump-starts her own convictions.

God doesn't set you up to fail, you know.

And He's not going to bring you this far for no reason.

And He has plans for me in the future,

and that's how I see the Holy Spirit, all, like,

moving throughout my life.

All the glory to God first and foremost.


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