Upstate New York's Jenn Suhr wins gold in pole vault

LONDON -- Two Olympic track and field medals are en route to New York State addresses.

A gold is going to upstate Churchville, thanks to pole vaulter Jennifer -- "just call me Jenn" -- Suhr's dramatic win over Yarisley Silva of Cuba, a tight contest only decided by the fewer-misses countback rule.

A bronze is bound for 221st Street in Cambria Heights, Queens, after Lalonde Gordon -- running for Trinidad and Tobago -- took third in the men's 400-meter final.

All this on the fourth straight day of 80,000-fan, twice-daily, capacity-crowd sessions at Olympic Stadium.

When Stacy Dragila, America's pioneering women's vault and the 2000 Sydney Olympic champion, retired from the sport, Suhr -- then Jenn Stuczynski -- succeeded her.

She took the silver medal behind Russia's Elena Isinbaeva, the world record-holder, at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, but a series of injuries and a bout with celiac disease slowed her progress in recent years and put a major crimp in pre-London training.

But Suhr, 30, put it all together Monday, clearing 15 feet, 7 inches, the same height as Silva -- but taking the gold because she had no misses heading up to 15-7, while Silva had a single miss at 14-7ΒΌ.

The bar went up to 15-9, but neither could clear, and so the win was Suhr's, the first gold by an American female vaulter at the Games in a dozen years, as well as the second gold for Team USA in track and field.

"I've been thinking about this ever since 2004," said Suhr, who won her first U.S. title in 2005, "To win it here is just magical. It takes a lot of strength and dedication and mental toughness.

"The atmosphere was electric. The crowd, all these people, they bring you alive . . . To win, it's really breathtaking, it's emotional; so emotional that I can't even describe it."

Discounting the 1980 Moscow Games, which the U.S. boycotted, Team USA had won 20 of the 26 men's Olympic 400 meters since the first one at Athens in 1896. The U.S. had won the 400 seven straight Games since 1984.

But when USA drew a blank in the Sunday semifinals, that history came to an end.

The gold went to the 19-year-old, Alabama-trained Kirani James, representing Grenada, in 43.94, the silver to the Dominican Republic's Luguelin Santos (44.46) and the bronze to Gordon (44.52).

Santos, 19, is a high school student in Puerto Rico. Gordon, 23, also runs for the Jersey City-based Zenith Velocity Club team and trains at Red Hook Park in Brooklyn.

"The medal is nice but I still don't think any people in Queens are going to pay attention," Gordon said. "But that's OK, too; I know what I did even if a lot of others don't."

The men's 400-meter hurdles final produced another semi-shocker. Some thought that 2004 Olympic champion Felix Sanchez, the New York City-born USC graduate, would never hold off favored Javier Culson of Puerto Rico.

Well, Sanchez did everything right and won in 47.63.

Team USA's Michael Tinsley took the silver in 47.91. Culson got the bronze in 48.10. USA team captain Angelo Taylor settled for fifth in 48.25.

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