In her seven times competing in the Pole Vault at the Millrose Games during the indoor season, US pole vaulter Jenn Suhr won just once.
With that kind of a track record, you would think the last thing she wanted to see was the runway from that meeting erected in front of the grandstand at Icahn Stadium for tomorrow’s Pole Vault competition at the IAAF Diamond League adidas Grand Prix.
But the Olympic champion is excited to have her event showcased.
“I used to think that I was cursed on that runway, but I think that it’s just Madison Square Garden where I am cursed; at least, that’s what I am hoping,” Suhr said as she met the media at today’s press conference. “I think it is very special that they are bringing in the runway from the Millrose Games and putting it right in front of the grandstand. I’m just hoping that the bad weather holds off and good things can happen.”
A big concern for organizers and athletes alike has been the weather forecast, which has been ominous all week as stormy conditions have blanketed the East Coast of the United States. Should the heavy rains and winds continue, it could make things particularly tricky in the Pole Vault, especially on a raised, temporary, runway.
“Outdoors is kind of dependent on the wind conditions and adjusting to that, adjusting your mark,” Suhr said. “It is going to be interesting to come out there and do that.”
While the weather is somewhat of a concern for the pole vaulters, other athletes don’t seem particularly stressed about it.
Kenya’s David Rudisha, the World and Olympic champion, is the heavy favourite to win the 800m here for the second year in a row. Last season, he blazed his way to victory in 1:41.74. Over the last two years, Rudisha has lost just twice, both times in the rain, which has led some to suggest that wet weather is Rudisha’s achilles heel.
“I don’t agree with that,” Rudisha said. “Weather is not something that we can change. It is something that we have to adapt to. We’ll just have to see how it goes.”
Rudisha said that he was generally pleased with his performance at the Diamond League opener in Doha, which he won in a world-leading 1:43.87, and is looking forward to further improvement in this second 800m race of the year.
“My coach says that every season is a process and every race is preparation for achieving one goal,” Rudisha said. “My main aim is the World Championships. The races we are running before are a way to sharpen up for the World Championships. Tomorrow, I am looking forward to another really good run.”
A bit unsure of what to expect from herself is Croatia’s Blanka Vlasic, who will return to competition for the first time in 20 months after she contracted a serious bacterial infection in her left take-off foot after undergoing surgery to shave part of her achilles tendon, a procedure required after a bone fragment in her ankle broke off and embedded into the tendon.
“No, I didn’t think it too much through as to what my expectations are,” she said. “I am just grateful that I have another opportunity to compete and to jump at this meet. Through this time away, I realized how much I missed it and it would just be ungrateful for me to expect something special or to put myself under pressure now. This is the beginning of the season. It is still too early in the year to say anything.”
Vlasic said that she is not yet feeling 100% and is anxious to see how she performs.
“It wasn’t until I came here that I got nervous,” she said. “But it’s all part of the magic, especially after 20 months not competing. It’s not going to be easy, but I know that.”
What is also not going to be easy is the lofty goal that Olympic champion Brittney Reese has lined up for herself. After opening the season with an impressive victory in Doha, where she jumped a world-leading 7.25m, she has her sights set on Jackie Joyner-Kersee’s American record of 7.49m.
“I figured that if I could jump 7.25m this year, and further than that if I can get my landing together, I’ll be right in the area for the American record,” she said. “To hit 7.25m at the early part of my season, I feel like I am right where I need to be.”
Reese said she has just started taking a full approach to the board in practice this week and hasn’t fouled a jump yet, something she considers to be a good sign moving forward. Whether that translates to a big jump here all depends on the conditions.
“Last time I was here it was the same conditions,” Reese said of the 2011 meet, where she finished third with just 6.35m. “The marks weren’t great, but we all competed. I can’t really do anything about the conditions and neither can anyone at the meet. If it’s bad, I’m just going to go out there and try to get those four points.”
Joe Battaglia for the IAAF