Olympic gold medalist Jenn Suhr’s pole vaulting season may be over due to injuries suffered after her pole snapped during a practice session on Wednesday afternoon.
Suhr was more than halfway into her ascent on her attempt at clearing 15 feet at her training facility at her home in Riga when the Pacer carbon pole shattered.
She slammed violently into the padding below the bar and suffered injuries to her left wrist, left hand, ribs, neck and left shoulder, said Rick Suhr, her husband and coach.
“It was hard to watch as a coach,” Rick Suhr said by phone Thursday afternoon, “and even harder to watch as a husband.”
X-rays revealed no broken bones but the extent of the injuries, especially to the wrist, won’t be known for several days at the earliest.
“I don’t know if these things will linger,” Rick Suhr said. “It could be three weeks or three months. When you get into soft tissue injuries, you just never know.”
Suhr won gold at the 2012 London Olympics and is focused on defending her title at the Rio Summer Games in 2016.
Rick Suhr said Jenn will almost surely miss competitions in London on Aug. 24, Zurich on Aug. 28 and Morocco in early September.
“This is going to cost us time and money, but it’s all about Rio,” he said.
More importantly, he said, the injuries are not “catastrophic.”
Suhr, 32, has experienced just one other broken pole during competition and training. A pole snapped during training for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, about a month before competition. She won silver in China.
“That time she was up right away and she kept jumping,” Rick Suhr said.
Poles usually always snap “at maximum bend,” Rick Suhr said.
“The sport looks glamorous and smooth, and it is, but when you have equipment failure, you see the danger and the violence.”
Her return to training will depend on when she’s able to grip the pole with her left hand, and also when she is mentally ready.
Because of physical trauma that can take place after a pole breaks, coupled with the helplessness while falling, some pole vaulters have a difficult time returning to the sport and attacking the ramp with the same vigor. In some ways, it’s like a pitcher in baseball who has been hit by a line drive.
“I’ve seen some really good people shatter poles and walk away (from the sport),” Rick Suhr said. “You have to get back on the horse.”
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