By STEFAN GESTWICKI
OBSERVER Sports Reporter
Fredonia native and two-time Olympian Jenn Suhr (nee Stuczynski) is officially in London, confident and prepared to chase the gold medal at the 2012 Summer Olympics.
Jennifer Suhr posted this picture of she and basketball star Kobe Bryant on her Facebook page Friday.
Suhr's parents, Mark and Sue Stuczynski of Fredonia, were all smiles when talking about their daughter - who brought home the women's pole vault silver medal at the 2008 Games in Beijing, China.
"We're extremely proud as parents," Mark said. "It's not a boasting kind of proud. Just as with any of your children, if they work hard you want to see them accomplish the goals they set before them."
"It is hard to believe," Sue continued. "But if you knew Jenny and knew her determination and her stubbornness to accomplish tasks, it's not that hard to believe."
Participating in the Olympics is often described as a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but for Suhr, this will be her second attempt at pole vault gold. The second time, however, is no less special than the first.
"If anything it's more special," Mark explained. "She has her husband (Rick) with her this year and not just her coach.
He's a good husband and really watches out for her best interest, not just as an athlete but as a wife, too."
"It's definitely not less special," Sue reiterated. "I wouldn't say we're seasoned veterans either. It's funny how much things have changed in four years."
Four years ago, there was an explosion of community support. This time around, the region has once again been "phenomenal."
"People are coming into the business and wishing her well," Mark, owner of the Fredonia Food Mart & Deli, said. "I know the yard signs are going up for sale. Of course the proceeds of the signs will go to scholarships for students from Dunkirk and Fredonia."
Julie Essek is on the committee that oversees the sign sales and agreed that 'Suhr Fever' has once again caught on in Western New York.
"The community is continuing to support Jenn," Essek said. "The committee, her family and the community will be closely watching her events.
"We're not having the big events like we did last time, but we're still doing the yard signs," she continued. "We've given scholarships every year since the last Olympics."
As for Suhr herself, she is more calm and confident the second time around without the mystery of the unknown.
"She knows what to expect," Mark added. "She's already made enough accomplishments. She got ranked No. 1 in the world in 2011. She doesn't really jump against other athletes. She jumps against herself and tries to better herself."
"She is well prepared," Sue said. "She really feels it this time."
Having already won a silver medal in 2008, one might expect that anything less than a gold medal in 2012 would be a disappointment for Suhr. The Stuczynskis don't see that as the case at all.
"No, I don't think she'd be disappointed," Sue said. "For Jenn, she just wants to do well. If she does well, she's going to be pleased. She definitely wants the gold, but she won't be disappointed."
"Any athlete that stands a chance to medal wants the gold," Mark added. "She's very satisfied with the silver, but to rank No. 1 at the Olympics would be quite an accomplishment. Jenny wants to be No. 1 at whatever she does in the athletic world."
The Stuczynskis know how their daughter feels, not from talking to her, but from talking to her husband and coach, Rick Suhr.
"When we talk to Jenny, we don't talk about the Olympics," Sue explained. "We talk about her dog. She'll ask about her grandparents or neighbors."
"She talks pole vault 24/7 to everyone else," Mark added. "When she calls us, it's like a little vacation. We try to keep it like that because every time she calls we don't want her to think that all we're interested in is the pole vaulting. We're interested in her well being."
Knowing she has her family in her corner gives Suhr that much more confidence headed into the 2012 Olympics, where many family members will be present.
While Suhr's parents are unable to attend this year for a variety of reasons, her brother Matthew will be in London supporting his sister. Her husband will also have a number of family members in attendance.
"Matt wasn't able to go to China," Sue said. "So he's excited."
Suhr arrived in London on Wednesday, but chose not to participate in the opening ceremonies on Friday.
"It's something like nine hours on your feet," Mark said. "Between the procession and the time getting ready beforehand, it really wears your athletes down."
The women's pole vault qualifiers are scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 4, when the field of around 50 athletes will be narrowed down to the top 15 or so.
From there, the finals will be Monday, Aug. 6. and will be televised on NBC from 8 p.m. to midnight.
"The stress to qualify is always there," Mark noted. "On any given day you can have your A-game or your less than A-game."
If Suhr is at her best, it might only be a matter of time before she brings an Olympic gold medal back to Fredonia.
Stefan Gestwicki is an OBSERVER sports reporter. Please send comments on this story to firstname.lastname@example.org