Jenn Suhr has been trying to beat her Russian rival for the past five years, but the pole vaulter picked the right time to finally get the better of Elena Isinbaeva: in the gold medal run of Olympic finals.
Isinbaeva had been one of the most dominant athletes in any Olympic sport, winning Olympic gold twice and the world championships twice as well as breaking the world record a total of 28 times, the Denver Post reported. Jenn Suhr had finished behind Isinbaeva at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing and, heading into the 2012 Olympics, was expected to again finish behind the Russian.
But, on Monday night, Suhr mastered the meet’s wet and windy weather conditions, earning the first gold medal in the event for the U.S. since Stacy Dragila in 2000.
Jenn Suhr did it looking good. She won with a height of 4.8 meters, matching Cuba’s Yarisley Silva but winning by virtue of having less misses. Isinbaeva, who gained a reputation as a diva for her camera-hogging actions, took bronze at 4.7 meters.
“When Elena’s in the field, you know the bar is risen, literally and figuratively,” Suhr said. “She’s that great of a competitor, and you know you have to be on your game. You have to compete, and you have to execute. I knew that anything’s possible when she’s in there.”
Surh took a strange path to Olympic gold. The 30-year-old didn’t even pick up pole vault until she attended small NAIA Roberts Wesleyan College near Rochester, N.Y. There the pole vault coach, Rick Suhr, who would later become her husband, saw Jenn Suhr playing basketball and noticed that she could grab the rim with both hands.
Rick convinced her to give pole vault a try. He helped her get the fundamentals down, even connecting a pair of huts to form a jumping pit, the Associated Press reported.
Within three years of picking up the sport, Jenn Suhr would be ranked No. 2 in the world, firmly behind Isinbaeva where should would remain for the next six years. Until Monday night, that is.