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How Olympic gold medalist Katie Nageotte honors her late dad with her shoes

Mark Nageotte died in 2007 from a heart attack at age 45.
/ Source: TODAY

On Thursday, Team USA pole vaulter Katie Nageotte soared to gold and her late dad was with her every step of the way.

The Ohio native writes 'Dad' on the instep of her spikes and taps them prior to competition to honor her father, Mark, who died of a heart attack when she was just 16.

Tokyo 2020 - Athletics
Team USA's Katie Nageotte at the Tokyo Olympics.Friso Gentsch/dpa / picture alliance via Getty Images

"I was tapping it a lot today, like, 'Help me get this together'," Nageotte told NBC Sports' Lewis Johnson after her gold medal performance. "I love my family so much. They're so supportive. My dad would be really happy."

2020 Olympics, Mens basketball, Tokyo
Katie Nageotte celebrates the gold medal in the women's pole vault final at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Earlier this summer, Nageotte qualified for the Tokyo Olympics at the USA Track and Field trials held in Eugene, Oregon.

"Flying to the Olympic Trials on Father’s Day is extremely fitting," she captioned a throwback photo of her hugging her dad on the track the day she left. "I miss you always, but this year a little extra. Hoping to make you proud this week."

After winning a national title in 2018, Nageotte recounted her dad's support in an interview with

"He was my biggest supporter," she shared. "In every sport, he would take me to practices or camps or clinics. He knew I was athletic, and he said, 'If you're going to do something, I want you to be really good at it.' He would pay extra for private lessons, things like that."

But her dad isn't the only role model she honors.

Tokyo 2020 - Athletics
Nageotte writes "papa" on the inner sole of her left shoe for competition in honor of her late dad.Friso Gentsch/dpa / picture alliance via Getty Images

"I write 'Dad' on the inside of one spike and 'Papa,'' for my grandfather Douglas Dixon, on the inside of the other," Nageotte told "I touch my spikes before I take big jumps. I probably look like I have a nervous tick on the runway, but it's not random."

Nageotte rocketed to gold in her Olympic debut, clearing 4.90 meters.

"It's an indescribable feeling," Nageotte told NBC Sports after seeing her family back in Ohio celebrating her win in Tokyo. "I'm so grateful I can also do this for them, because I know they wanted this for me."

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