AREA HERO’S GOLDEN ERA ENDS IN CLASS: Fredonia native Suhr retires, ‘grateful’
Jenn Suhr is a “small town girl” who is now ready for “some small town living.”
Suhr, the Fredonia native who won a gold medal in the pole vault in the 2012 Olympics, has announced her retirement from professional track and field.
“It is official,” Suhr wrote on her Facebook page Thursday. “The words will come to me soon but my heart and soul are ready for the next phase of my life. Pole vault unlocked more than I could have wished for and let me experience more than I could have dreamed of. I started pole vaulting as a senior in college, unaware of where this life would lead and provide for me. I will forever be grateful. I say goodbye, not with a heavy heart, but with an enthusiasm I haven’t felt in some time. Thank you for your endless support and uplifting comments. This small town girl is ready for just that, some small town living.”
Suhr actually planned to retire in 2017, telling NBC Sports in 2018 that she had lost her passion for the pole vault. Her attempt to defend her gold medal in 2016 ended after Suhr fell ill in Rio, coughing up blood the morning of the Olympic final and throwing up during the competition. She ended up seventh in her final Olympic competition. The ensuing 2017 season was the first in more than a decade during which Suhr didn’t win a national title either indoors or outdoors.
See SUHR, Page A3
Her husband, Rick, talked the Fredonia native out of retirement. Instead, the Suhrs changed training locations from upstate New York to East Texas. At a time when many athletes do indeed retire, Suhr experienced a renaissance.
She set a personal best by clearing 4.93 meters, earned the top ranking in the world in 2018 and broke the Pre Classic record by clearing 4.85 meters in 2018 as well. Suhr then made one final run at the Olympics, qualifying for the U.S. finals in June 2021 before finishing fourth.
Suhr was named Pole Vaulter of the Decade by Track & Field News and has been considered Western New York’s greatest female athlete across all sports. In addition to her gold medal at the 2012 Olympics in London, Suhr won a silver medal at the 2018 Beijing Olympics.
She won silver in the 2013 World Championships in Moscow, gold at the 2016 World Indoor Championships in Portland. She was the 2005 NAIA indoor champion, has held the American indoor and outdoor pole vault records, is a seven-time USA Outdoor pole vaulting champion, six-time USA indoor pole vaulting champion and was the 2014 USA indoor pole vaulting runner up.
“I feel very lucky to be ending my career with the support and guidance from the same people I had around me when it began,” she said in a statement. “First and foremost, I owe so much to my husband and coach, Rick, whose love and energy were essential to me clearing every bar in front of me these last 18 years. I’m very proud to have represented Adidas from the start and beyond grateful for the foundation and support they’ve given me throughout my career. And of course, I want to thank my family, friends and everyone who was there for me on this unforgettable journey.”
When Suhr was at Fredonia Central School, she played softball, basketball and soccer and was, of course, a track and field athlete. In the latter, she won the New York State Public High School Athletic Association pentathlon title in 2000, which was her senior year.
She continued her track and field career at Roberts Wesleyan College in Rochester where she also played basketball. As a senior on the hardwood, she averaged 24.3 points and 6.7 rebounds per game, leading the Raiders to the NCCAA national championship game. By the time she graduated, Suhr was the school’s all-time leading scorer.