Jennifer Suhr stuns two-time champion to take gold in pole vault | Olympic track and field
For the first time before a big meet, Jennifer Suhr heard a positive message from her husband, Rick, who's also her coach. While sending Jennifer onto...
LONDON — For the first time before a big meet, Jennifer Suhr heard a positive message from her husband, Rick, who's also her coach.
While sending Jennifer onto the field for the Olympic pole vault final Monday night, Rick told her nobody's unbeatable — not even Russian superstar Yelena Isinbayeva, the two-time champion and world-record holder.
And so, Suhr went out and proved him right, defeating Isinbayeva, capturing the gold and giving a nice boost to the United States track and field team, which hasn't been getting many breaks so far at the London Olympics.
"Before I went out here, he said, 'You're going to win this,' " Suhr said. "I've competed 100 times and that's not something he says. It puts that extra spunk that I could do this. Someone else believes in me that much."
When it was over, Suhr rushed over to the stands to see her husband, who gingerly wrapped an American flag around her shoulders while she sobbed into his chest.
A quite different scene from four years ago in Beijing, when Rick was caught on camera berating Suhr after her disappointing runner-up finish to Isinbayeva. Few knew at the time that they were romantically involved and would be married two years later.
Yes, they've come a long way together.
From training in a pair of Quonset huts that Rick connected together to form a jumping pit — the blue-collar practice area in western New York they call "Rocky's Meat Cooler" — to winning an Olympic gold medal on the sport's grandest stage.
Suhr vaulted 15 feet, 7 inches to defeat Cuba's Yarisley Silva, who cleared the same height but lost on a tiebreaker because she had one more miss in the competition.
More significantly, Suhr beat Isinbayeva, who failed to become the first woman to win the same individual track and field event at three consecutive Olympics. Isinbayeva settled for bronze with a vault of 15-5.
"Of course I'm not a fairy tale," she said.
Two-time Olympic gold medalist Angelo Taylor staggered to the finish in the men's 400 hurdles for fifth place in a race won by 34-year-old Felix Sanchez of the Dominican Republic. Sanchez finished in 47.63 to beat American Michael Tinsley to the line, as the United States took only one medal in an event where it captured all three in Beijing.
"It's a new day, it's a new era," said the 33-year-old Taylor. "Things change. People evolve. People show up."
Defending 400-meter sprint champion LaShawn Merritt wasn't among them, however.
The American was heading back home after pulling up with a hurt hamstring in the first round. With no other American men in that final, 19-year-old Kirani James gave Grenada its first-ever Olympic medal. He took the lead at the halfway point and ran hard to the finish line even though he hardly needed to — winning in 43.94 seconds.
It was the first time since the 1980 Moscow Games that someone other than an American won the men's 400.
Jarred Rome, the former Marysville-Pilchuck High star, placed 31st in men's discus at 59.57 meters.
"That was the worst feeling day I've had in couple of years," Rome said. "My practice two days ago was probably the best practice I've had in a couple of years. I really don't know what happened.
"My first throw hit the cage, and I think that rattled me a bit. I backed off a bit on my next throw and it didn't go anywhere. On the last throw I tried to hit it and missed. It's over before you know it."