Vashti Cunningham, the daughter of former Vikings quarterback Randall Cunningham, qualified for the Rio Olympics on Sunday in Eugene, Ore.
The 18-year-old finished second in the women’s high jump final to become the youngest U.S. track and field athlete to qualify for the Olympics since 1980. Cunningham will join U.S. champion and three-time Olympian Chaunte Lowe and Inika McPherson next month in Rio.
“I’m very appreciative, just to be able to go to the Olympics this year,” Cunningham told USA Today. “So I’m more thankful than disappointed. It was a relief to qualify and just know that I was top three. At the same time, I still wanted to win. I always want to win.”
Randall is Vashti’s coach and has plans to ramp up her training in the weeks leading up to the Summer Games. Lowe cleared a 2016 world-best 6 feet, 7 inches, while Vashti failed to clear the height of 6-6 3/4. Earlier this year, Vashti won the U.S. indoor championships and set a world junior record in the high jump by clearing 6-6 1/4.
Vashti admitted that her “legs lost some juice” as the competition level increased. Though Vashti just turned pro in April, Lowe said she is confident the U.S. trio can sweep the podium in Rio.
The U.S. hasn’t won gold in the women’s high jump since the 1988 Seoul Olympics. If Vashti is able to medal, she would be the youngest U.S. track and field athlete to do so since 1972.
“This is greater than anything I’ve ever done. It’s always better when you see your kids doing it,” Randall told NBC Sports. “Finishing with a silver at 18 years old, I think about the hard work she puts in and how she always works to glorify God. She’s been praying and doing everything. I just thank God for her. She’s a good little girl.”
Vashti told USATF.TV her dad “thinks this is bigger than a football game or a championship, so I’m just thankful for him supporting me.”