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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