Women’s Pole Vault Expected To Be One of Marquee Events of 2016 Olympics
By Jonathan Gault
January 20, 2015
BOSTON — The eyes of the world will be on Boston should the city earn the right to host the 2024 Summer Olympics. But since that event is nine long years — and one lengthy bidding process — away, Boston will have to settle for the eyes of the American track world next month. The Reggie Lewis Center will host two high-profile American track meets this winter: the 20th annual New Balance Indoor Grand Prix on February 7 and the USATF Indoor Championships from February 27-March 1. One of the headliners at both events will be 2012 Olympic pole vault gold medalist and world indoor record holder Jenn Suhr, 32, who will start by going for her record eighth victory at the NB Indoor Grand Prix.
Suhr experimented with a carbon pole in 2014 instead of the usual fiberglass, and found some success, vaulting 4.71 meters on June 1 in London (Ontario), a mark that would tie her for second on the world list at year’s end.
“I am glad I did it,” Suhr said over lunch at Boston’s Lenox Hotel on Tuesday afternoon. “It allowed me to see things technically that I might not have caught. Having different kinds of poles points out more flaws sometimes so I was able to see what I was doing correctly and what I wasn’t doing correctly. It allowed me to learn a little bit more about my vault and make changes for the future.”
Suhr’s coach and husband, Rick said that the non-championship year was the right time to experiment with a new pole and that they were hoping that the carbon composition might offer more recoil that could launch Suhr higher. The downside is that the carbon pole is not as strong as its fiberglass counterpart, something Suhr found out the hard way. During the midseason Diamond League break, Suhr was back home practicing when the pole shattered, cutting her hand open.
“I remember thinking my wrist was broken,” Suhr said. “I don’t know if you’ve ever watch Ridiculousness where people get hurt and try and run from the pain, but that is true because I thought I was just going to outrun the pain. I started hopping around because you don’t know what to do. It just hurt that bad.”
At that point, Rick wanted to shut Jenn’s season down but she ended up returning to Europe for three meets in August and September. Suhr’s 4.71 outdoor best, though still tied for second in the world, was her worst SB since vaulting 4.66 in 2006, so she will be back to the fiberglass pole full-time in 2015.
The Year of the Vault
With two NCAA indoor records on the women’s side and one on the men’s already, some have already taken to calling 2015 the Year of the Vault.
“I would say without question, we’re putting out faster runways, better surfaces, so that’s a factor,” Rick Suhr said. “The information highway, the amount of technique that can be studied…our ability to improve very quickly is better now than it’s ever been due to technology, poles, facilities and the information highway.
“The fun part is that the very top end, the best three to four marks in the world, haven’t jumped around much with the exception of the French gentleman (Renaud Lavillenie, who set the world record at 6.16 meters last year) and Jenn, but they were good long before this.”
Suhr said that he believes the women’s pole vault will be one of the marquee events at the 2016 Olympics in Rio as the top woman in the world last year, Fabiana Murer of Brazil, will be the home nation’s best shot at a gold medal in track and field.
“They love their own down there and when she steps on the runway, it’s going to be a big deal,” Rick Suhr said, adding that Murer, who won the world title in 2011, has a championship pedigree.