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Road to London: Suhr ready for another shot at Olympic glory


Fredonia native Jenn Suhr, above, won the silver medal for pole vaulting at the Beijing Olympics. As she prepares for the 2012 games in London, she'll provide monthly updates on Sports, Ink. Today, she discusses the challenges she faces in the coming months.

2008 feels, in a strange way, just like yesterday. My emotions from the 2008 Olympic Games are still mixed. I was blessed to win an Olympic Silver medal in the pole vault but felt, and still feel, as if I can do better.

In 2012, I will get another shot to chase Olympic glory. My pursuit is not what most people think of when they think of a chase or race ... mine is vertical and not horizontal. It is hard to communicate the ups and downs (no pun intended) that come with this pursuit, but I hope to be able to give folks in this region a monthly glimpse of the good and bad, the fun and less than fun, and the joy and the frustrations that come with an Olympic year’s preparations. Most of us don’t realize the sacrifice and almost obsessive focus involved in pursuing an Olympic dream -- but don’t worry, I will help change that.

The difficulty of my event is not only extreme because of the nature of pole vaulting. It is further complicated by the fact that in 2012 it will feature the only two-time Olympic champ returning for a chance at number three. Yelena Isinbayeva, from Russia, is the Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods of pole vaulting. In order for me to win the Olympics, I will have to outsmart gravity and a yet-indestructible Olympic force named Yelena. Remember "Rocky IV"?  This is the real-life version of that movie with a training routine that isn’t that far off! The next 9 months will largely become a life focused on running down a runway carrying a fiberglass pole that will launch me, upside down into the air with a landing mat (hopefully) underneath me as I fall back to the ground. Dec. 1 is the official start for me, or the end, depending how you look at it.

I will become familiar with seeing 5:30 a.m. on my alarm clock and the daily distance run of four miles. The weight room will see me at least five times a week. My body will go through 30-minute conditioning cycles not that different than a college wrestler trying to make weight. And my training sessions will take place in a cold steel building in Churchville with a climate ranging from 40 degrees to -5 degrees in the winter months of upstate New York. Frozen fingers and toes always make it a little more challenging! Chips and Bison dip will be replaced by carrot sticks and celery; snacks will be replaced by protein shakes; goodbye pizza, and hello fruit; Sunday football will now be broken up by Sunday core session workouts; and my dog will get all the walking exercise he needs and more! Sit-ups, push-ups, pull-ups, and planks will soon be a way of life.

My husband, Rick Suhr, having been an All-American wrestler from Spencerport, completely understands the mental and physical struggles I go through. He will guide me every step of the way so this is a family affair. Film review will now replace Robin Mead; coffee will be replaced with tea; and cream with non-fat milk. Chef, julienne, chicken, vegetable and garden all represent my choices of salads for dinner. Rick and I have been getting everything winterized, and house projects have been rushed to the top of the to-do list to help eliminate any distractions later on. I just hope my body can make it through the winter and the inconsistent spring season we have learned to love.

I invite you to follow my journey to the Olympic trials in Oregon at the end of June through this blog space. I may complain on occasion, but there’s nothing in the world like clearing a bar that is 16 feet in the air -- especially if it happens in London next August. 

As of Dec. 1, I am all in.

--Jenn Suhr

(Photo: Suhr makes an attempt during qualifications at August's World Athletics Championships in South Korea. Credit: Associated Press)

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About Sports, Ink

Budd Bailey

Budd Bailey

Budd Bailey has served in a variety of roles in Buffalo sports in the past 35 years, including reporter, talk-show host, baseball announcer, public relations staffer and author. He covers the Bandits and running for The News when not working as an editor.