Olympic Track Results 2012: Jenn Suhr Wins Gold in Women's Pole Vault for USA

Noah JampolFeatured ColumnistAugust 6, 2012

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 06:  Jennifer Suhr of the United States celebrates after winning the gold medal in the Women's Pole Vault final on Day 10 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on August 6, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

It wasn't Jennifer Suhr's highest vault in a championship. It didn't come close to her personal bests or those of the queen of the event, Russia's Elena Isinbayeva.

But Suhr's 15'7" vault was just good enough to be a gold-medal-winning performance for the American at the London Games. It is one that will render all of those details meaningless and allow her to move past the pain of four years ago at Beijing. 

There, her 15'9'' showing in the 2008 Games earned her (competing as Jennifer Stuczynski) a distant second place behind Isinbayeva's stunning 16'6¾" world-record vault. The performance was fine, but it was the aftermath that stung.

Suhr's accomplishment was completely overshadowed by the televised verbal beatdown by coach Rick Suhr and her infamous quote at the U.S. trials this July regarding something about kicking and Russian butts.

As you probably have deduced by now, the Suhrs have since married and their confrontation was allegedly taken out of context—mostly in the realm of the standard tough love that characterizes athlete-coach interaction.

Meanwhile, the "kick butt" comment was a rah-rah statement made to fire up the troops, and not one meant to target the venerable Isinbayeva. Of course, that was not how the Russian media saw it. Or Isinbayeva.

“I am not deaf. I can read interviews and hear what is being talked about,” she responded, as quoted by the National Post. “It made me really angry because I said, ‘How is it possible to speak like this about me?’ When I found out, it wasn’t nice, first of all, because she must respect me and know her position. Now she knows it.”

Following the unavoidable public backlash to her future husband's miked-up critique and the Russian media's attacks, this title undoubtedly feels extra sweet for Suhr.

It was a narrow one. Her closest competitor, Cuba's Yarisley Silva, cleared the exact same height as she did. The reigning champion from Russia, meanwhile, well underperformed her personal best of 16' 7¼", with a mere 15'5" clearance to cap off a disappointing couple of years. 

In the end, it came down to misses. Both Silva and Suhr cleared 15'7'' after one miss at the height. That was Suhr's only miss of the competition, as she made the calculated decision to pass on most of the heights of the competition.

Silva was much more cautious given her 15'7'' personal best and had a miss at the low height of 14' 7¼", which would ultimately be the difference. With one miss to Silva's two, the title was Suhr's in a tiebreaker.

As it turned out, Suhr didn't need to match her personal best vault of 16'2'' to erase the hurt of four years ago. She just needed gold—something that can't be taken away, but something that can surely take away the pain of years past.