RIO DE JANEIRO -- We're roughly an hour and 15 minutes from the start of the women's pole vault qualifying at the Olympic Stadium. Start time had been slated for 9:30 this morning, but was pushed back. I'm not sure why, but figure it might have to do with the rain that fell here during the track and field competition Monday night. Is it Tuesday? The days are running together right now.
Yesterday at the Marriott, Rick Suhr told me Jenn intended to compete today, despite a raging respiratory illness that made it impossible for her to speak above a whisper. I texted him awhile ago to find out how she was feeling, but haven't heard back. No doubt, they were making their way to the stadium. Rick has not been impressed with the transportation here. He is not alone, I assure you.
There are 36 women in the field. To move on to Friday's final, you have to clear 4.60 meters (15 feet, 1 inch) or be in the top 12. Rick Suhr said he would probably start Jenn at 14-11 (4.55 meters). He figures that might be enough to make the top 12. Obviously, it would be best if Jenn had to jump only once. It will be difficult for her to compete and there's no telling whether she's well enough to clear the simplest of heights. But the best strategy is for her to gear up for a single jump, qualify, and go rest for three days.
Suhr needed only one vault to qualify in London, where it was windy and difficult for the field. At full health, you want to jump as few times as possible to conserve energy. She won the gold in London because she had fewer misses than Yarisley Silva, the silver medalist.
It's a tough field, and Rick Suhr said his biggest worry is what will await a weakened Jenn if she makes it to the final. He thinks the biggest threat for gold is Ekaterina Stefanidi of Greece, who has cleared 4.90 this year and is a consistent jumper.
Sandi Morris of the U.S., a rising star in the sport, is a threat to win, and some track and field experts like her chances. Morris, who is 10 years younger than Suhr at 24, has cleared 4.95 meters this season, the best in the world this summer and a personal best.
Fabiana Murer of Brazil, who will be a big crowd favorite and is a former world No. 1, will be in the mix. She's 35, but has cleared 4.87 this season, her personal best in a fine career. Silva was Sports Illustrated's pick, though she hasn't been great this season and has a season best of 4.84 meters. Suhr has jumped 5.03 meters, the best in the field, and Rick Suhr said she was ready to soar if she was healthy.