Jenn Suhr, the Olympic pole vault champion, felt anxious for months leading up to the World Championships. The prospect of facing two-time Olympic champion Yelena Isinbayeva, in Isinbayeva’s home country, in Isinbayeva’s last competition, was unsettling, even after defeating her at the London Games.
Then Suhr flew across the Atlantic, got off the airplane and saw something in Moscow that calmed her considerably.
“A billboard of myself,” she said. “It made me realize it’s a great opportunity.”
The women’s pole vault final at Luzhniki Stadium on Tuesday (11:35 a.m. Eastern time, Universal Sports coverage starts at noon) is not solely the Isinbayeva show, despite the recent flurry of Russian headlines.
The diva of pole vaulting announced in July that was ready to retire.
“My career will finish 100 percent at the World Championships,” she told R-Sport at the time. “For me it will be a nostalgic moment, I should get pleasure from the performance, and I will try to show the best I can.”
Isinbayeva, 31, backtracked a bit Sunday, though.
“I’m not ending my career … I’ll start a family, I’ll give birth and I’ll try and return and reclaim all my gold medals,” she told R-Sport. “If it doesn’t work out, then I’ll announce my retirement. Right now I’m not leaving. I’m taking another break because I want to have children. I’ll definitely miss the next season, and after that we’ll see.”
Suhr ended Isinbayeva’s reign at the Olympics. The Russian had broken the world record 17 times since 2003 and won two Olympics, two outdoor world championships and four indoor world championships in between.
Suhr cried before the final in London, but listened to a pre-competition pep talk from coach and husband Rick Suhr, who followed up his usual “Saving Private Ryan” line — “I’ll see you on the beach” — with a confident, “You’re going to win this.”
The gold-medal favorite Tuesday may be neither Suhr nor Isinbayeva. Enter Cuban Yarisley Silva, the 2012 Olympic silver medalist. She owns the five highest jumps of 2013, including one at 4.90 meters, a personal best that would have bettered Suhr in London.
Suhr, the 2008 Olympic silver medalist, became the first U.S. woman to win the Olympic title since Stacy Dragila in the first Olympic women’s pole vault in 2000.
Her post-Olympic highlights included pole vaulting in awkward settings — a golf course and in a fieldhouse at a Buffalo Bills game. It’s not out of the ordinary for the Rochester, N.Y., native, who has been known to train in Quonset huts.
The setting in Moscow will also be unique with Isinbayeva mania, but Suhr is now ready for the occasion.
“This is one of the first meets ever that you’ll have three of the top women ever have jumped,” she said. “It’s exciting to be involved in.”