Skip to content

Jenn Suhr enters U.S. Championships with new pole, unfinished story

Jun 25, 2014, 4:33 PM EST

Jenn Suhr

A book to be titled something like, “Price of Gold: The Jenn Suhr Story,” sits on Suhr’s husband and coach Rick’s table. It hasn’t been published yet, but it’s been about 90 percent complete for more than a year.

The 110 pages document Suhr’s initial rise in the nascent event of women’s pole vault, in the Olympic program since 2000, to her Olympic silver in 2008 and gold in 2012.

Suhr, 32, picked up a pole for the first time 10 years ago. She and Rick once scrounged for toll-booth change and grocery shopped exclusively for on-sale items, before their 2010 marriage and Olympic successes.

Jenn and Rick read through the book more than one year ago. They read it again. They looked up and at each other in a hotel room and came to the same conclusion.

“Price of Gold” didn’t capture the feel of the London Olympics.

“I think there’s more to the story,” Suhr said recently. “I think there’s going to have to be a little more adjectives to capture [London]. It’s something that is so hard to put into words.”

They tabled the book and went back to work.

Suhr broke Russian rival Yelena Isinbayeva‘s world indoor record on March 2, 2013. She won her seventh U.S. outdoor championship three months later and silver in one of the marquee events at the 2013 World Championships, because they were against Isinbayeva in Moscow. Suhr, who ate food out of a suitcase in Russia as a precaution, remembers being booed by spectators at Luzhniki Stadium.

Suhr enters this week’s U.S. Championships in Sacramento, Calif., likely to match the record of eight U.S. outdoor women’s pole vault titles held by Stacy Dragila, the first Olympic champion in the event.

Her season so far has largely been an unusual one. Suhr was beaten at the U.S. Indoor Championships in February and finished fifth at the World Indoor Championships in March.

She then returned to her upstate New York home and Quonset hut training facility and undertook The Carbon Project. Suhr, a 14-time national champion, Olympic champion and World indoor record holder on fiberglass poles, switched to carbon poles.

It was first considered before the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials, but the risk of such a change before an Olympics coupled with a quad injury delayed the project. Other elite men and women use carbon, but all major records have been set with fiberglass, Rick said.

They believe this year, with no global championships, is the right time to make the move.

“A lot of people, the saying is, if it’s not broke, don’t fix it,” Suhr said. “But I also think you never know until you try. I want to end my career knowing that I tried everything, that I jumped as high as I possibly could, that I experimented with everything out there. With this pole, it’s really kind of the new wave of pole. It’s lighter. It has more reaction. It’s a lot more aggressive.”

Suhr made her Diamond League season debut with a carbon pole in New York two weeks ago and finished second, clearing 4.70m. Suhr’s best fiberglass marks the previous seven years ranged from 4.81m to 4.92m.

Suhr said she’s 100 percent committed to the change, which affects her run (a faster stride with a lighter carbon pole), her plant and her jump (with a different kind of pole bend). The Suhrs consider every competition a data collector.

“Your poles are kind of like your children,” Suhr said. “Now, everything is new.”

Rick recently pulled out “Price of Gold” again and read the first 25 pages, for the first time in more than one year. The book, like the Carbon Project, is not quite complete yet.

“We’re going to do it, finish it this fall,” Rick said. “But it’s gotta feel right.”

USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships broadcast schedule

Featured video

Yogging a hit at Youth Olympic Games