Jenn Suhr next to the scoreboard after breaking the World indoor Pole Vault record with 5.02m (© Kirby Lee)
USA’s London 2012 Olympic champion Jenn Suhr and Great Britain’s 2013 European indoor champion Holly Bleasdale are looking to take the women’s Pole Vault to new heights this summer in the IAAF Diamond League.
With one month to go before this year’s opening IAAF Diamond League meeting on Friday 10 May in Doha (the first women’s Pole Vault competition in 2013 will be in Shanghai on 18 May), the pair spoke to journalists on Wednesday (11).
Below are the edited highlights of their conference call, with Suhr speaking from New York and Bleasdale on the line from her winter training base in Phoenix, Arizona.
How important are competitions like the IAAF Diamond League as part of your preparations en route to the IAAF World Championships in Moscow?
Jenn Suhr: The Diamond League is something that I love competing in but you have to qualify for Moscow via the US Championships so I won’t really go overseas before the US Championships. I don’t want to risk travelling, and losing my poles or anything like that, before the US qualifiers. My focus right now is on meets on US soil and the US nationals, after that I’ll do Diamond League meetings overseas although I’ll be competing in New York on 25 May.
Holly Bleasdale: I’m looking forward to being in New York but I’m also lucky that quite a few of the Diamond League meetings (with the women’s Pole Vault) are in Europe so I’ll be doing Oslo, Birmingham and London before I go to Russia. I’ll meet all the other girls from around the world and I love competing in them.
Both of you will be competing in New York, what are you looking for there?
HB: For me, it’s right at the start (of my season) and I’m doing it on my way home from the States. I’m just hoping to get a good solid opening height to the season there, I’m not really going there expecting to jump anything high. It’s just part of my programme on my way to the World Champs. It’s there to boost my confidence and make sure that what I’ve been doing in training works.
JS: The New York Diamond League for me is good (as it's very close to home). I don’t know what to expect or what I’ll jump. It’s a little trickier to jump there as the winds come across, it swirls whenever I jump there, I really don’t go for height. I go there to make sure everything is technically OK and I go there to compete.
Jenn, are you preparing differently now to avoid your past injury problems?
JS: My goal for this outdoor season is to be injury-free and healthy for the whole summer. It seems like random things have happened in the past, like a fall, but you can’t avoid those and that’s the risk of the Pole Vault. I feel I’ve picked up where I left off last year, I’ve been training well and hopefully the outdoor season can be injury-free.
Jenn, it must be quite a relief to have broken that mental barrier of clearing five metres?
JS: My indoor season up to that point (jumping a to-be-ratified World indoor record of 5.02m at the US Indoor Championships) had been sub-par but I attempted 4.81m the week before and it was a good jump, and I had the feeling in my body of what I would need if a bar was at 5.00m. It ended up as a good season but going into the nationals, I wasn’t happy with my indoor season. My coach had told me that I wasn’t jumping nearly to my potential; and seeing as my coach is my husband, I was a little frustrated and angry with that. I knew that I had to go to the next level and jump something that I was capable of jumping.
My goal now is consistency over 5.00m but outdoors is a little trickier as you never know what conditions you are going to get. Sometimes heights aren’t really the goal in the outdoor season, sometimes getting the winds and heights can be a little low because of the conditions. You have to be ready to jump in good conditions and bad conditions, that’s part of the event, and that’s part of the attraction
Holly, given the fact that you had got a bronze at the 2012 World Indoors, was sixth at the Olympics on home soil a disappointment?
HB: Everyone was saying that I should have been in contention for a medal and, if the weather had been in my favour, I think I could have been up there. But I gained so much experience that I could never have done at any other competition. If I’m now in the same situation again, I think I’d be able to handle the wind and the conditions physically and mentally a lot better, which is great to have learned that.
Leading up to the European Indoor Championships (in March), I had been doing some really good training with Dan and Scott (her coaches Dan Pfaff and Scott Simpson), they had imparted so much knowledge, and they say knowledge is power, so going into the meet I was really confident and although I had the jump off and had a lot of jumps, I felt really confident in my ability.
Holly, does five metres seem less imposing now that a woman other than Yelena Isinbayeva has now cleared it?
HB: It’s great that someone else has now done it. It shows the rest of us that it's now possible and I think a lot of other athletes will now get it. It’s certainly spurred me on a lot more and I’m more confident pushing towards that barrier.
What do you think about the rivalry with Yelena (Isinbayeva) and how do you feel about competing in the World Championships in Moscow?
JS: If you have Yelena in a meet, it ups the meet, and that’s a good thing for the sport. Looking forward to Moscow is a bit like last year when I was looking forward to London, as an athlete coming from New York you really just have to focus on the US nationals and not count your chickens before they’ve hatched. You have to qualify first before you can even think about how it’s going to go in Moscow but I definitely know that she’s back and that’s good for the event.
HB: She’s still talented and she’s still going to be around five metres. If she’s back in training and injury-free then I’m sure she’s going to be jumping 4.95m or 5.00m, which is great for everyone else. It’ll push us on and inspire us in training.
What do you think about the German jumpers?
JS: The Germans have come a long way and when I look at the (all-time) list, I can see a collection of them. They are always going to be a factor. Silke Spiegelburg has done some great things, she’s such a competitor. There’s also Lisa Ryzih, her father’s her coach, and you also have some other great jumpers coming up.
Holly, who do you see as the next rising star, along with yourself?
HB: Sweden’s Angelica Bengtsson has always been with me at junior championships. She’s now training in France and she’s a really good talent. There’s also Lisa (Ryzih), she’s only 24, and I see us going through the ranks together; but it’s easy for other people to improve quickly and jump 4.60m or 4.70m.
Both of you spend a lot of time on the other side of the Atlantic from your homes, what sort of things do you miss when you are away?
HB: Well, I don’t miss the weather but America is very different from home. Everything seems so far away. I really miss my family and not being close to them. I’m eight hours behind the UK so my parents are in bed when I’m out training, and I really do miss my friends. However, I get a really good block of training done when I’m out here (in Arizona) so it’s worth the effort. I miss a carvery (a meat restaurant); I do like a carvery!
JS: When I go to Europe, I probably miss my dogs the most, that’s number one. In fact, I looked at having them over there, but it was too difficult. I miss the coffee in America too! I’m also so used to going to a grocery store and it has everything in it: pharmacy stuff, food. In Europe, you have to go to a load of different stores. It’s kinda funny that there is a specific store for a specific item!
Phil Minshull for the IAAF
2013 IAAF Diamond League Calendar
Doha, QAT – 10 May
Shanghai, CHN – 18 May
New York, USA – 25 May
Eugene, USA – 1 Jun
Rome, ITA – 6 Jun
Oslo, NOR – 13 Jun
Birmingham, GBR – 30 Jun
Lausanne, SUI – 4 Jul
Paris, FRA – 6 Jul
Monaco, MON – 19 Jul
London, GBR – 26-27 Jul
Stockholm, SWE – 22 Aug
Zürich, SUI – 29 Aug
Brussels, BEL – 6 Sep