RIIO DE JANIERO -- An illness that worsened overnight failed to keep Fredonia native Jenn Suhr from advancing to the women’s Olympic pole vaulting finals during qualifying held Tuesday morning.
Although she felt feverish and nauseous, the defending Olympic gold medalist jumped twice, clearing 4.55 meters and then the automatic qualifying distance of 4.60 meters. She had hoped to get by with one jump at 4.55 but circumstances dictated otherwise.
“Actually, today was the low point, the worst I’ve felt,” she said afterward. “I came down with the respiratory but it’s the dizziness and always feeling when I cough that I’m going to throw up.”
“That was one of the most courageous performances ever, and no one will know because it was a qualifier,” said Rick Suhr, Jenn’s husband and coach.
Jenn met Rick at the rail after clearing 14-11 (4.55 meters) hopeful her day was over, her mission accomplished.
“He said, ‘How do you feel?” Jenn said. “I said, ‘You don’t think 55 gets in?’ He said, ‘No.’
“I did not want to jump one more bar because I was done. I wanted to be done and go home and recover.”
The finals are Friday.
The qualifying height would seem routine for Suhr under normal conditions but the plight of Brazil’s Fabiana Murer served as a reminder nothing in the event can be taken for granted. Murer, second at the World’s in 2015, failed to qualify.
Suhr first felt symptoms of an illness on Saturday but downplayed them. By Sunday she she had to admit, her voice hoarse and her breathing labored, that something had taken hold.
"It's kicking her pretty good," Rick said Monday. "This morning she virtually lost her voice and she could barely talk."
"I just don't know what it is I came down with," Jenn said Monday. "It actually hurts to talk 'cause you have to push so hard in your stomach, so that's why I haven't been talking. I have to save my abs for the swing."