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Rick Suhr No Fan Of U.S.
Team-Selection System

by Jeff Hollobaugh

Suhr Jenn NycDL15captionWith such a robust indoor season going for Jenn Suhr, questions are still flying about why she’s not planning to compete at the USATF Indoor Championships or World Indoor.

Says husband/coach Rick Suhr, “With that U.S. qualifier, if you're not hurt going into it, there's a good chance you’re going to be hurt coming out of it. Our qualifying system’s prehistoric.”

It’s the short interval between the U.S. meet and the Worlds that bothers him. “Now you’re going to jump against the best women in the world on Thursday. But when all 10 of the best jumpers in the world are resting up for 2 weeks, getting ready to go for Thursday, and you have to jump with everything you have on the Saturday before, that puts you at a very unfair position. I'm surprised people really haven't put this together.

“All these other women jump 4.71 [15-5½], and they’re qualified. And they have plenty of time. They have three weeks to rest up coming in to Portland on Thursday to jump. We don't have that. We have to go all-out on Saturday. Because there's no half-speed in pole vault. We have to go all out to qualify in the top two, or we’re on an airplane going back home. So really, the athletes are going to try as hard as they can, but what are we doing in the end?”

Suhr doesn’t hide that he has the same discontent with the U.S. outdoor system. “All our Trials system does is it assures that we won’t send some of the best people. It just allows our best athletes to trip up.

“Here's what someone said to me once: ‘You could take someone who does fantasy football every day. They could probably pick a better team of our pro track athletes than our trials system produces.’ We know who the best people are in most of our events. We should have them on the team. Our trials system will never produce the potential that our team has to win. It will never do it.”

Two key factors, Suhr says, are the physical and mental stress of the U.S. Trials, arguably one of the toughest athletics competitions on earth. “The injury factor this year alone in Beijing was ridiculous,” he continues. “And the same thing everybody said was, ‘I'm tired, I'm beat up, the trials killed me.’ That was the No. 1 statement I heard out of all the athletes. ‘The Trials wore me out.’ Because it's so stressful.

“They're not taking into consideration the stress on the athlete. Think how much is involved in the athlete not even knowing until 6–7 weeks before the Olympic Games, if they are even in the Olympic Games. And then they have to organize 5 gazillion things to get done in that six weeks’ time.

“Think about trying to get travel arrangements for 10 members of your family and you only have 6 weeks to do it, going to Rio de Janeiro. It disrupts the training; you have to peak twice. These are all things our competition, the top five or six women in the world, don't have to go through. It's not just our event, it's all of them.”

February 2, 2016