LONDON — Former Oregon standout Becky Holliday bowed out of the pole vault competition after clearing two heights at the London Olympics on Monday, but she wasn’t about to leave the venue.
The 32-year-old Holliday, who placed ninth overall at 14 feet, 7¼ inches, wanted to stay and watch her good friend and longtime competitor, Jennifer Suhr, wrap up the gold medal for Team USA.
Suhr was able to accomplish that feat by clearing 15-7 before 80,000 fans at Olympic Stadium. Cuba’s Yarisley Silva also made 15-7, but Suhr was awarded the gold based on fewer misses. Russia’s Elena Isinbaeva, the reigning two-time Olympic gold medalist, settled for the bronze at 15-5.
“I had a front row seat,” said Holliday, who won an NCAA title for the Ducks in 2003, and still holds the school at 14-8. “I know how much Jenn wanted the gold, so I’m really excited for her.”
As for Holliday, at 5-3 and 115 pounds, she was one of the smallest competitors in the 12-person final, and swirling winds inside the stadium made life extremely difficult.
“The wind was really bad,” Holliday said. “That’s just the way it goes in these competitions. Unfortunately, us little vaulters kind of get the shaft. We knew it could be bad in London, but it’s so hard to prepare for the Olympics, because there are no meets like the Olympics.”
Holliday, who lives and trains in Jonesboro, Ark., plans to keep vaulting for at least two more years. Although she didn’t get the result she was hoping for, she’ll always treasure the experience.
“It’s so surreal when you’re out there,” she said. “I wish I would have done better. Obviously, I’ve jumped higher, but it’s really hard to come into an Olympics and PR. With these conditions, I felt like I gave it a good fight. I was in the mix, so I’m proud of that.”
And her stay in London isn’t quite done because her boyfriend, Tim Hornsby, competes for Team USA in Olympic kayaking this weekend.
“I get to go cheer him on,” Holliday said. “Everybody has been calling us the Olympic couple. It’s really exciting to be here with him.”
In the women’s 3,000-meter steeplechase final, Oregon Track Club Elite’s Bridget Franek was never a factor in the race as she placed 14th overall with a time of 9 minutes, 45.51 seconds.
Franek, a two-time U.S. runner-up in the steeplechase, set her PR of 9:29.53 in London on July 14.
“The wheels came off really early,” she said. “I love the steeplechase and I need to continue progressing. There are definitely things I can work on. I’m just really happy that I can say I was in the Olympic final. That was a big step for me.”
Russia’s Yuliya Zaripova won the gold medal with a personal best of 9:06.72, while Tunisia’s Habiba Ghribi took silver at 9:08.37. Ethiopia’s Sofia Assefa grabbed the bronze at 9:09.84.
The top American finisher was Emma Coburn in ninth place with a personal best of 9:23.54. Franek, 24, said “nerves” definitely got the best of her.
“I felt the pack pulling away and I couldn’t respond,” she said. “I was trying. It just looks like I wasn’t … there are things I can improve on which gives me a lot of motivation and incentive to come back next year even tougher, and train harder. I’ll get another chance and I’ll do better next time.”
By: Curtis Anderson