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

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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.”

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

Noah Lyles runs personal best and is coming for Usain Bolt’s world record

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Noah Lyles ran a personal-best time in the 60m on Saturday, then reaffirmed record-breaking intentions for the 100m and, especially, the 200m, where Usain Bolt holds the fastest times in history.

Lyles, the world 200m champion, won the 60m sprint in 6.51 seconds at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix in Boston, clipping Trayvon Bromell by two thousandths in his first top-level meet of the year. Bromell, the world 100m bronze medalist, is a past world indoor 60m champion and has a better start than Lyles, which is crucial in a six-second race.

But on Saturday, Lyles ran down Bromell and shaved four hundredths off his personal best. It bodes well for Lyles’ prospects come the spring and summer outdoor season in his better distances — the 100m and 200m.

“This is the moment I’ve been working, like, seven years for,” he said. “We’re not just coming for the 200m world record. We’re coming for all the world records.”

Last July, Lyles broke Michael Johnson‘s 26-year-old American record in the 200m, winning the world title in 19.31 seconds. Only Bolt (19.19) and fellow Jamaican Yohan Blake (19.26) have run faster.

Lyles has since spoken openly about targeting Bolt’s world record from 2009.

How does an indoor 60m time play into that? Well, Lyles said that his success last year sprung from a strong indoor season, when he lowered his personal best in the 60m from 6.57 to 6.56 and then 6.55. He followed that by lowering his personal best in the 200m from 19.50 to 19.31.

He believes that slicing an even greater chunk off his 60m best on Saturday means special things are on the horizon come the major summer meets — the USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships in July (on the same Oregon track where he ran the American 200m record) and the world championships in Budapest in August.

After focusing on the 200m last year, Lyles plans to race both the 100m and the 200m this year. He has a bye into the 200m at world championships, so expect him to race the 100m at USATF Outdoors, where the top three are in line to join world champ Fred Kerley on the world team.

Lyles’ personal best in the 100m is 9.86, a tenth off the best times from Kerley, Bromell and 2019 World 100m champ Christian Coleman. Bolt is in his own tier at 9.58.

Also Saturday, Grant Holloway extended a near-nine-year, 50-plus-race win streak in the 60m hurdles, clocking 7.38 seconds, nine hundredths off his world record. Olympic teammate Daniel Roberts was second in 7.46. Trey Cunningham, who took silver behind Holloway in the 110m hurdles at last July’s world outdoor championships, was fifth in 7.67.

Aleia Hobbs won the women’s 60m in 7.02 seconds, one week after clocking a personal-best 6.98 to become the third-fastest American in history after Gail Devers and Marion Jones (both 6.95). Hobbs, 26, placed sixth in the 100m at last July’s world championships.

Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone, the Olympic and world 400m hurdles champion competing for the first time since August, and Jamaican Shericka Jackson, the world 200m champion, were ninth and 10th in the 60m heats, just missing the eight-woman final.

In the women’s pole vault, Bridget Williams, seventh at last year’s USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships, upset the last two Olympic champions — American Katie Moon and Greek Katerina Stefanidi. Williams won with a 4.63-meter clearance (and then cleared 4.71 and a personal-best 4.77). Stefanidi missed three attempts at 4.63, while Moon went out at 4.55.

The indoor track and field season continues with the Millrose Games in New York City next Saturday at 4 p.m. ET on NBC, NBCSports.com/live, the NBC Sports app and Peacock.

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Birk Irving, last man on Olympic team, extends breakout season with Mammoth win

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One year ago, Birk Irving was the last man to make the four-man U.S. Olympic ski halfpipe team. Since, he continued to climb the ranks in arguably the nation’s strongest discipline across skiing and snowboarding.

Irving earned his second World Cup win this season, taking the U.S. Grand Prix at Mammoth Mountain, California, on Friday.

Irving posted a 94-point final run, edging Canadian Brendan Mackay by one point. David Wise, the two-time Olympic champion who won his fifth X Games Aspen title last Sunday, was third.

A tribute was held to 2015 World champion Kyle Smaine, a U.S. halfpipe skier who died in an avalanche in Japan last Sunday.

“We’re all skiing the best we have because we’re all skiing with Kyle in our hearts,” Irving said, according to U.S. Ski and Snowboard. “We’re skiing for him, and we know he’s looking down on us. We miss you Kyle. We love you. Thank you for keeping us safe in the pipe today.”

Irving also won the U.S. Grand Prix at Copper Mountain, Colorado, on Dec. 17. Plus, the 23-year-old from Colorado had his best career X Games Aspen finish last Sunday, taking second.

The next major event is the world championships in Georgia (the country, not the state) in early March. Irving was third at the last worlds in 2021, then fifth at the Olympics last February.

The U.S. has been the strongest nation in men’s ski halfpipe since it debuted at the Olympics in 2014. Wise won the first two gold medals. Alex Ferreira won silver and bronze at the last two Olympics. Aaron Blunck is a world champion and X Games champion.

Irving is younger than all of them and has beaten all of them at multiple competitions this season.

New Zealand’s Nico Porteous, the reigning Olympic gold medalist, hasn’t competed since the Games after undergoing offseason knee surgery.

In snowboarding events at Mammoth, Americans Julia Marino and Lyon Farrell earned slopestyle wins by posting the top qualification scores. The finals were canceled due to wind.

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