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

Jenn Suhr
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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

Ilia Malinin wins U.S. Figure Skating Championships despite quadruple Axel miss

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One year ago, Ilia Malinin came to the U.S. Championships as, largely, a 17-year-old unknown. He finished second to Nathan Chen in 2022 and was left off the three-man Olympic team due to his inexperience, a committee decision that lit a fire in him.

After the biggest year of change in U.S. figure skating in three decades, Malinin came to this week’s nationals in San Jose, California, as the headliner across all disciplines.

Though he fell on his quadruple Axel and doubled two other planned quads in Sunday’s free skate (the most ambitious program in history), he succeeded the absent Chen as national champion.

Malinin, the world’s second-ranked male singles skater, still landed two clean quads in Friday’s short program and three more Sunday. He totaled 287.74 points and prevailed by 10.43 over two-time Olympian Jason Brown, a bridge between the Chen and Malinin eras.

“This wasn’t the skate that I wanted,” said Malinin, who was bidding to become the second man to land six quads in one program after Chen. The Virginia chalked up the flaws at least partially to putting more recent practice time into his short program, which he skated clean on Friday after errors in previous competitions.

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Full Results

Brown, a 28-year-old competing for the first time since placing sixth at the Olympics, became the oldest male singles skater to finish in the top three at nationals since Jeremy Abbott won the last of his four titles in 2014. As usual, he didn’t attempt a quad but had the highest artistic score by 9.41 points.

Brown’s seven total top-three finishes at nationals tie him with Chen, Michael WeissBrian Boitano, David Jenkins and Dick Button for the second-most in men’s singles since World War II, trailing only Todd Eldredge‘s and Hayes Jenkins‘ eight.

“I’m not saying it’s super old, but I can’t train the way I used to,” Brown said after Friday’s short program. “What Ilia is doing and the way he is pushing the sport is outstanding and incredible to watch. I cannot keep up.”

Andrew Torgashev took bronze, winning the free skate with one quad and all clean jumps. Torgashev, who competed at nationals for the first time since placing fifth in 2020 at age 18, will likely round out the three-man world team.

Japan’s Shoma Uno will likely be the favorite at worlds. He won last year’s world title, when Malinin admittedly cracked under pressure in the free skate after a fourth-place short program and ended up ninth.

That was before Malinin became the first person to land a quad Axel in competition. That was before Malinin became the story of the figure skating world this fall. That was before Malinin took over the American throne from Chen, who is studying at Yale and not expected to return to competition.

Malinin’s next step is to grab another label that Chen long held: best in the world. To do that, he must be better than he was on Sunday.

“You always learn from your experiences, and there’s always still the rest of the season to come,” he said. “I just have to be prepared and prepare a little bit extra so that doesn’t happen again.”

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Mark McMorris breaks Winter X Games medals record; David Wise wins first title in 5 years

Mark McMorris
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Canadian snowboarder Mark McMorris broke his tie with American Jamie Anderson for the most Winter X Games medals across all sites, earning his 22nd medal, a slopestyle gold, in Aspen, Colorado.

On the final run of Sunday’s contest, McMorris overtook Norway’s Marcus Kleveland with back-to-back 1620s on the last two jumps. McMorris’ last three Aspen slopestyle titles were all won on his final run (2019, 2022).

“It’s something I never thought would ever come to me as a kid from Saskatchewan,” McMorris, 29, said on the broadcast. “Everything’s just been a bonus since I became a pro snowboarder.”

In a format introduced three years ago, athletes were ranked on overall impression of their best run over the course of a jam session rather than scoring individual runs.

McMorris won his record-extending seventh X Games Aspen men’s slopestyle title, one day after finishing fourth in big air.

“It just keeps getting crazier because I keep getting older,” he said. “People just keep pushing the limits, pushing the limits. Last night was such a downer, almost bums me out, like, dude, do I still have it? … To have one of those miracle wins where you do it on the last run and someone makes you push yourself, those are the best feelings.”

McMorris won slopestyle bronze medals at each of the last three Olympics and reportedly said last February that he was planning to compete through the 2026 Milan-Cortina Winter Games.

Canadian Max Parrot, the 2022 Olympic slopestyle champion, is taking this season off from competition.

Anderson, a two-time Olympic snowboard slopestyle champion, is expecting her first child.

Later Sunday, American David Wise earned his first major ski halfpipe title since repeating as Olympic champion in 2018. Wise landed back-to-back double cork 1260s to end his winning run, according to commentators.

“I wouldn’t still be out here if I didn’t think I had a chance,” Wise, 32 and now a five-time X Games Aspen champ, said on the broadcast. “I’m not going to be the guy who just keeps playing the game until everybody just begs me to stop.”

U.S. Olympian Mac Forehand won men’s ski big air with a 2160 on his last run, according to commentators. It scored a perfect 50. Olympic gold medalist Birk Ruud of Norway followed with a triple cork 2160 of his own, according to commentators, and finished third.

Canadian skier Megan Oldham added slopestyle gold to her big air title from Friday, relegating Olympic champion Mathilde Gremaud of Switzerland to silver.

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