Getty Images

Jenn Suhr reverses retirement, breaks pole vault records at age 36

Leave a comment

Jenn Suhr didn’t think she would be pole vaulting at the last Prefontaine Classic at Hayward Field (as we know it), let alone breaking the meet record on Saturday.

That’s because the 2012 Olympic champion planned to retire after last season. Her husband and coach, Rick Suhr, helped convince her not to.

Turning 36 in February, Suhr was ready to move on after failing to win a national title, indoors or outdoors, for the first time since 2004 and then no-heighting in qualifying at the world championships.

“I was done. I didn’t want to vault anymore. I lost the passion for it,” Suhr told media after the Pre Classic. “Everything going on in track and field, it was pretty depressing. I was just done. My husband was like, Jenn, you’re in great shape. You can still pole vault. Why are you going to stop?”

Suhr decided not to stop. She switched poles instead. The Suhrs also switched training locations, spending more time in East Texas and away from native upstate New York, where she developed into the world’s best while vaulting in a Quonset hut.

Now, a tanned Suhr has her own name on her pole. The Suhrs are looking for more long-term property in East Texas.

“I’m going to find the passion again,” she said. “I’ve been finding that love for the sport.”

Not only was 2017 a forgettable year, but Suhr also was spurred to continue by what happened in Rio. She was physically unable to defend her Olympic title due to the worst sickness of her life. She coughed blood the morning of the Olympic final and threw up during the competition. She finished seventh.

“It felt like I was in a fun house where I was walking sideways, trying to get to the bathroom,” Suhr said a month after the Olympics, according to the Rochester (N.Y.) Democrat and Chronicle.

This season, Suhr set a personal best outdoors by clearing 4.93 meters in April, ranking No. 1 in the world in 2018, before breaking the Pre Classic record by clearing 4.85 on Saturday.

She has defeated Olympic silver medalist Sandi Morris, who is nearly 10 years younger, in their last two head-to-heads, after Morris edged her in their previous four dating to Rio. (Though Morris didn’t really train the three weeks leading into Pre due to injury.)

If Suhr decides to go for Tokyo 2020, she could become the oldest female Olympic pole vaulter and oldest male or female medalist in the event by three years. Before that, though, Suhr plans to branch out.

Pre marked Suhr’s first Diamond League start in three years and first win on the global circuit in five years. Since 2015, all of her meets outside of the Olympics and world championships have been in the U.S. and Canada.

“I get homesick really easy,” Suhr said. “This year, I’m going to travel and make the most of it.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

VIDEO: 17-year-old runs 3:52 mile at Pre Classic

Simone Biles routing field, edging note card at U.S. Gymnastics Championships

Leave a comment

BOSTON — Simone Biles leads the field by a whopping 3.1 points halfway through the U.S. Gymnastics Championships. She beat the number at the bottom of the note card in her locker at the World Champions Centre in Texas by a much smaller margin.

No matter the perspective, Biles was more dominant on Friday night than during most of the Rio Olympic cycle. In just her second meet in two years. Nine months after returning to training after a 14-month break.

Biles tallied the highest score on every apparatus in the field and the world’s highest all-around score since Rio — 60.1 points. The second-highest score since Rio? Biles’ 58.7 from her comeback meet at the U.S. Classic three weeks ago.

“At Classics, I was still easing back into everything and kind of feeling the surroundings and getting used to competing again,” Biles, 21, said on the fifth anniversary of her first U.S. all-around title. “I feel like today I really embraced it.”

NATIONALS: Scores | TV/Stream Schedule

In the last Olympic cycle, Biles averaged a 1.94-point lead after the first day of nationals.

She rolls into the final day of competition Sunday, looking to become the first woman to win five U.S. all-around titles and the first non-teen to win since 1971. And send another message ahead of October’s world championships.

Morgan Hurd, who won the 2017 World all-around title in Biles’ absence, is in a distant second after four clean routines. The margin between Biles and Hurd is greater than the margin between Hurd and the eighth-place gymnast.

Asked to put her 60-pointer in perspective, Biles brought up the note card.

“I think it says 60 at the bottom,” said Biles, who hit 62.366 in Rio under a different scoring system.

Biles hit 60 points in a practice meet at her gym right before she left for the U.S. Classic. Her new coaches, Cecile and Laurent Landi, encouraged Biles to keep the visual reminder placed in her locker leading up to nationals.

“I wanted to show her that she could reach that score,” Laurent Landi said. “It’s not a big deal. If she does normal, she can be there.”

But nobody else can. Biles had 25.4 total points in difficulty on Friday. The next-highest gymnast (Hurd) had 22.7.

Biles essentially began the meet with a 2.7-point head start. She then was judged to have better overall execution than everybody else, even though she had the disadvantage of performing harder routines.

“She’s just mentally there,” said Riley McCusker, who led Biles going into the last rotation at the U.S. Classic and is in third place here. “She can take that time off and [be] physically there, too.”

BILES ROUTINES: Balance Beam | Floor Exercise | Uneven Bars | Vault 1 | Vault 2

Biles’ flaw in her comeback meet three weeks ago was the uneven bars. She fell trying a more difficult routine than in Rio.

On Friday, Biles nailed her bars set, receiving applause from Laurent Landi, who coached Madison Kocian to a bars silver in Rio.

Biles has never won a national title on bars. At the Olympics, she had the highest scores in the all-around on beam, floor and vault and the seventh-highest score on bars.

“She needs to go through more mental belief that she [belongs] at this level on the bars,” said Laurent Landi, a 40-year-old former French gymnast.

Landi insisted Biles was not at her best Friday. He noted her two overcooked tumbling passes on floor that cost her six tenths for going out of bounds. Imperfect landings on other events. He dismissed Biles’ lead and said he already has plans for upgraded routines before worlds, next year and possibly in the Olympic year.

“Sometimes when it’s difficult in the gym, we, my wife and I, try just to remind her who she’s trying to beat,” he said. “It’s herself.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

GYM NATIONALS: TV/Stream Schedule | Where Are The Final Five?

Laurie Hernandez faces big decisions before comeback

Getty Images
Leave a comment

BOSTON — Laurie Hernandez still hopes to compete in 2019, but she must find a coach and a gym first. And transition from conditioning to regular gymnastics training.

“Kind of dipping my toe in the water,” she said Friday at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships, where she is strictly a spectator.

Hernandez hasn’t competed since earning team gold and balance beam silver in Rio. Other than Simone Biles, she is the only member of the Final Five openly expressing a desire to return to elite competition next year.

“Because I’m still passionate about it,” she said. “Ever since I was a little girl I’ve always loved it, and I still do. It’s still really important to me.”

Hernandez said she has been on gymnastics equipment every so often but not consistently. She has said hello to new U.S. high-performance team coordinator Tom Forster.

She hopes to pick Aly Raisman‘s brain about coming back. Raisman took almost a year off after the 2012 London Games, then trained for a full year before returning to competition in March 2015.

Unlike Raisman, Hernandez said there is no unfinished business from the Olympics that motivates her.

“I know what I’m getting myself into,” Hernandez said. “It’s kind of like curiosity killed the cat but satisfaction brought it back. Being 16, being so curious, not really knowing what I’m walking into, that was such an interesting experience [in Rio].”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

GYM NATIONALS: TV/Stream Schedule | Where Are The Final Five?