Jenn Suhr

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

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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.”

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Kyle Snyder savors Russian Tank showdown

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U.S. wrestler Kyle Snyder waited 2 1/2 years for this news. The Russian Tank is moving up to 97kg.

Abdulrashid Sadulayev, a 21-year-old from Dagestan with the foreboding nickname, is undefeated at the senior international level since November 2013. He won the 2014 and 2015 World freestyle titles and 2016 Olympic gold at 86kg.

Sadulayev hasn’t competed since Rio but is believed to be shifting to 97kg for the Russian Championships. The news spread Sunday.

Snyder, a 21-year-old from Maryland, owns the 97kg division. He is the reigning Olympic and world champion but does not quite carry Sadulayev’s reputation. No man does.

Snyder is 13-3 internationally since Rio. He also showed grit to cap an undefeated college season, repeating as national champion for Ohio State by overcoming a rib injury and pain-killing shots at NCAAs.

Snyder is training for the U.S. trials for the world championships in two weeks, when he’ll have a bye into the final. But that preparation was interrupted Sunday when Snyder saw the Sadulayev news on Twitter.

“I know as much as, like, anybody else,” Snyder said by phone Monday evening. “I just saw it on Twitter, and people were confirming it, pretty reliable sources. Not 100 percent sure, but I’m pretty sure.

“My gut reaction is excited, happy. When I first saw it, I smiled because this is like an exciting match for the wrestling community, wrestling fans, and it’s an exciting match for me. It motivates me to continue to grow and continue to improve in wrestling.”

Snyder calls Sadulayev the world’s best pound-for-pound wrestler, ranking ahead of Turkey’s Taha Akgul, also a 2014 and 2015 World champion and 2016 Olympic gold medalist.

Snyder has interacted with a fake Sadulayev Twitter account, but never spoken with the Russian. He believes they have shaken hands, though.

Better is Snyder’s familiarity with Sadulayev’s wrestling. He first dreamed of facing him in 2014, while watching the world championships in Tashkent, Uzbekistan on a web stream.

There, an 18-year-old Sadulayev manhandled men up to 11 years older, winning four of five matches by the 10-point mercy rule.

Snyder has watched all four of Sadulayev’s matches from Rio, where the Russian bulldozed to gold by a combined 28-1 margin. Snyder was 28-8 across his four wins.

“[Sadulayev] has got a very good stance,” Snyder said. “It’s very difficult to get to his legs and to break his positioning. He’s a very good finisher once he gets your leg, and he’s very good on top.”

Snyder compared the challenge of facing Sadulayev to that of another Russian, Abdusalam Gadisov, the 2014 World champion whom Snyder edged in the 2015 Worlds 97kg final.

Except Gadisov is six years older than Snyder and such a stalwart that Snyder had been watching Gadisov’s film since the seventh grade. And Gadisov didn’t make Russia’s Olympic team.

Snyder knows one American who has faced Sadulayev in competition and maybe another one or two who grappled with him in training.

Sadulayev reportedly suffered a partial knee tear months before the Olympics. He hasn’t competed since Rio, taking time off for marriage, according to USA Wrestling.

“I know that he was hurt after the Olympics, and he’s had a lot of recovery and treatments,” Snyder said.

The possibility of facing Sadulayev is so enticing that Snyder doesn’t mind discussing it despite the fact neither wrestler is guaranteed a worlds spot.

Snyder goes into the U.S. trials in two weeks as a decided favorite, though. His biggest domestic competition the previous two years was 2012 Olympic champion Jake Varner, who Snyder said won’t be at trials.

“I’m a better wrestler than I was last year,” Snyder said. “No matter how many titles I get, I don’t think I’ll ever feel pressure to win because I care more about competing hard and wrestling hard and trying to score a lot of points than I do winning.”

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Henrik Lundqvist joins Swedish throng in song at world title celebration

Henrik Lundqvist
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Singing Queen’s “We are the Champions,” goalie Henrik Lundqvist joined thousands of his closest Swedish friends to celebrate their world hockey title in a central Stockholm square Monday afternoon.

The event at Sergel Square attracted the country’s prime minister (who was partially booed), Swedish royals and a flyover by the Swedish Air Force, according to German press agency DPA. Even the pregnant 2015 Miss Sweden found a way to honor the team.

Sweden won its 10th world title Sunday, ousting two-time defending champion Canada 2-1 in a shootout and at least somewhat avenging its Sochi Olympic final defeat.

The Swedish roster included NHL players who, as of now, won’t be participating in the PyeongChang Winter Games.

Such as Washington Capitals forward Nicklas Backstrom, who scored one of Sweden’s two shootout goals, three years after being suspended from the Olympic final for testing positive for pseudoephedrine.

And Lundqvist, who flew to the worlds co-hosted by France and Germany to join the team mid-tournament after his New York Rangers were eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Lundqvist stopped all four Canadian shots in the shootout, capping an exceptional stint with the team. He arrived to play the last five games and tallied a 1.31 goals-against average and .946 save percentage, the best among all goalies who played in more than two games at the tournament.

Lundqvist, 35, joined Sweden at worlds for the first time since 2008 after his identical twin brother, Joel, reached out, according to The New York Times. Joel, a former NHL forward, is the Swedish team captain but didn’t make the Olympics in 2006, 2010 or 2014, like Henrik did (winning gold in 2006).

The Lundqvist brothers had not played on the same team in 12 years. With Joel not playing in the NHL, it might be his turn to suit up at the Olympics next year, while Henrik stays in the U.S.

“Sitting in New York, 10 days ago or so, this is what I pictured myself, to be here with my brother, to hold this trophy,” Lundqvist said Sunday.

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