LONDON – For the first time at a big meet, Jenn Suhr heard a positive message from her husband, Rick, whos also her coach.
Before sending Jenn onto the field for the Olympic pole vault final Monday night, Rick told her nobodys unbeatable – not even Russian superstar Yelena Isinbayeva, the two-time champion and world-record holder.
And so, Suhr went out and proved him right, defeating Isinbayeva, capturing the gold and giving a nice boost to the United States track and field team, which hasnt been getting many breaks at the London Olympics.
Before I went out here, he said, Youre going to win this, Suhr said. Ive competed 100 times and thats not something he says. It puts that extra spunk that I could do this. Someone else believes in me that much.
When it was over, Suhr rushed over to the stands to see her husband, who gingerly wrapped an American flag around her shoulders while she sobbed into his chest.
Suhr vaulted 15 feet, 7 inches to defeat Cubas Yarisley Silva, who cleared the same height but lost on a tiebreaker because she had one more miss in the competition.
More significantly, Suhr beat Isinbayeva, who failed to become the first woman to win the same individual track and field event at three consecutive Olympics. Isinbayeva settled for bronze with a vault of 15-5.
Of course Im not a fairy tale, she said.
Its such a big upset, I dont think people realize how big it actually is, Rick Suhr said.
And yet, for the U.S. track team, it only moves the scoreboard up by one notch. Suhrs was a surprise gold for the Americans on a night when they couldnt catch a break anywhere else.
Two-time Olympic gold medalist Angelo Taylor staggered to the finish in the mens 400-meter hurdles for fifth place in a race won by 34-year-old Felix Sanchez of the Dominican Republic.
Defending 400-meter champion LaShawn Merritt was heading back home after pulling up with a hurt hamstring in the first round. With no other American men in that final, 19-year-old Kirani James gave Grenada its first-ever Olympic medal.
Earlier, Americans Lolo Jones and Dawn Harper, the defending Olympic champion, made it through the first round of 100-meter hurdles qualifying, along with world champion Sally Pearson of Australia.
In the womens 200, Veronica Campbell-Brown of Jamaica provided the only bit of drama in preliminaries, barely making it into the top three to move on to Wednesday. Americans Allyson Felix and Carmelita Jeter, Jamaican 100-meter gold medalist Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and 400-meter winner Sanya Richards-Ross of the U.S. also made it through.