EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — American Jenn Suhr has been paying more attention to pole vaulting than politics lately.
Now that she’s in the Olympics, the defending champion says that, sure, she’d like to see her biggest rival there, too.
“I’d like to compete against the best,” Suhr said Sunday at U.S. Track and Field Trials, when asked about the prospect of facing Russian world-record holder Yelena Isinbayeva. “I was told that I was misinformed on some things when I made my comment before. Maybe people know a little more than I do, I don’t know. If everything is honest, then yes.”
Isinbayeva is part of the Russian team that’s been banned by track’s governing body, the IAAF, from competing in Rio de Janeiro because of a doping scandal in her home country. She is among the 68 Russians who have petitioned the Court of Arbitration for Sport to compete. A decision is due July 21.
Asked a similar question about Isinbayeva in May, Suhr shared similar thoughts: that she would like to see Isinbayeva competing in Rio.
In a subsequent interview with The Associated Press, USA Track and Field president Stephanie Hightower said Suhr was “misguided.” Hightower, a member of the IAAF council that voted to ban the Russians, said Isinbayeva’s comments protesting the IAAF’s action were a sign the Russian “is condoning the corrupt system over there.”
Since that, Suhr put the doping scandal on the back burner to focus on making the U.S. team. In prelims at trials, she went conservative, taking fewer steps in her approach to make sure she would clear a height and advance. She was cautious in the final, too, winning with a height of 15 feet, 9 inches (4.80 meters).
“A relief, honestly,” she said. “I just want to get out of here. I want to go home. I haven’t enjoyed life in a while.”
The Suhr-Isinbayeva matchup stands as one of the handful of truly compelling rivalries in track and field. Isinbayeva beat out Suhr in 2008 for her second straight Olympic gold, before taking bronze in the London Games that Suhr won.
They await word on whether there will be an Olympic rematch.
“I always said I wanted to compete against the best,” Suhr said. “If everything is on the up and up — and the people who know more than I do say, ‘Yeah, she’s in,’ she’s in. Right now, I have no control over it. I’m happy that I’m in.”