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.”

USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships broadcast schedule

IPC president: Now is the right time to have Paralympics in Brazil

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International Paralympic Committee president Philip Craven said the upcoming Paralympic Games, which open in 100 days, could not be going to a better city than Rio de Janeiro.

“Many people might think that it’s not the time to go there now with the economic and political problems,” Craven said in a phone interview last week. “But is that not just the right time to be going, to just show what sport can truly do to mobilize and galvanize a people?”

And the Zika virus?

“We believe that the measures that have been communicated on a regular basis, reiterated to our member nations, will be effective, and the Zika virus will not have a major effect on the Games,” Craven said.

The Paralympics will visit South America for the first time in their 15th edition. The Rio Games, which run from Sept. 7-18, will have more broadcast coverage than ever and an expected record number of athletes and nations in the largest number of sports on a single Paralympic program.

NBC and NBCSN will air a record 66 hours of coverage of the Games. The USOC will provide live coverage at TeamUSA.org, too.

How the Paralympics will deal with the well-known issues facing Brazil will be largely impacted by how the preceding Olympics handle them.

But one issue unique to the Paralympics came to light four weeks ago.

A British Paralympic champion swimmer was disqualified from a European Championships event because his Olympic rings tattoo was not covered (he later competed at the meet with the tattoo covered).

An International Paralympic Committee swimming rule states, “body advertisements are not allowed in any way whatsoever (this includes tattoos and symbols).”

The rule will cover all sports at the Rio Paralympics. Craven said he has not heard of any appeals by para-athletes to change the rule.

The IPC will take a “common-sense approach” to enforcing the rule in Rio to make sure there are no disqualifications by communicating thoroughly to national committees, Craven said.

“IPC has got very strict rules for the Paralympic Games and for other events prohibiting body advertisements, and this includes tattoos for commercial brands and non-IPC symbols, such as the Olympic rings,” Craven said. “These rules were emphasized, re-emphasized to all competing teams and swimmers at that particular event, and, similarly, we’ll be doing so prior to the Games in Rio.”

Some Paralympians identify themselves as Olympians, too — some have event competed in both Games — but Craven made the difference clear.

The 65-year-old, five-time Paralympic wheelchair basketball player likened Olympic rings tattoos at the Paralympics to an NFL player with an NBA team tattoo.

Craven added that there has been no pressure from the IOC regarding the rule and that he would expect a hypothetical Paralympian competing at the Olympics to cover up a tattoo of the Agitos, which is the Paralympic logo.

“We want Paralympic athletes to show pride in promoting the Paralympic movement, including our symbol, which is the Agitos, which is very different from the Olympic rings,” Craven said. “When you have a Paralympic athlete, a para-athlete sporting a branding from another event, then it just creates confusion. It creates confusion for the IPC. It creates confusion for the IOC.”

MORE: Paralympic champ long jumper still hopes to be allowed into Olympics

First four U.S. Olympic archers qualified; Khatuna Lorig waits

Khatuna Lorig
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The first four U.S. Olympic archers for Rio are known, while Khatuna Lorig will learn in three weeks if she makes her sixth Olympic team.

A full men’s team of 2012 Olympic team silver medalists Brady Ellison and Jake Kaminski and first-time Olympian Zach Garrett earned their spots at the U.S. Olympic Trials that ended Monday.

Mackenzie Brown clinched her first Olympic berth by winning the women’s trials Monday.

The U.S. can send two more women to Rio if it qualifies a full team at a World Cup event in Turkey in three weeks. Those two women would be Hye Youn Park and Lorig.

Lorig, 42, is best known for teaching archery to Jennifer Lawrence before “The Hunger Games.” Lorig also competed in the 1992 Olympics for the Unified Team, the 1996 and 2000 Games for Georgia and the 2008 and 2012 Olympics for the U.S.

Lorig earned team bronze at Barcelona 1992 and finished fifth and fourth individually at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics.

The U.S. Olympic team alternates are Daniel McLaughlin and La Nola Pritchard.

MORE: Full list of athletes qualified for U.S. Olympic team