Pole Vault Champion Hurdles Celiac Disease

August 11, 2011

Pole Vault Champion Hurdles Celiac Disease

Olympic silver medalist Jenn Suhr shares her journey to diagnosis.

In an August 7, 2011 interview with BuffaloNews.com, pole vault champion Jenn Suhr shared her personal experience in overcoming celiac disease.

Despite having won silver in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Suhr (formerly Stuczynski) had been struggling with symptoms since winning the national indoor championship in February 2011. Leg cramps, dehydration and general weakness forced her drop out of four meets during the spring season.

From BuffaloNews.com:

“Late in June, Jenn competed in the USA Outdoor Championships at Eugene, Ore. She was gunning for a sixth straight national outdoor title. But by the end of the meet, the issue wasn’t winning, but simply surviving and finishing high enough to qualify for the World Championships late this month in South Korea.

“‘Looking back, it really was crazy,’ Jenn recalled. ‘To be on [muscle] relaxers and be that weak. It was like I was just swinging to make the team, to put it all on the line. I remember being upside-down and landing almost off the pad. I didn’t know where I was. I was dangerous. I don’t know if I’d do that again.’”

Shur currently holds more national titles than any active American track and field athlete – a whopping 10 of them!

But this time, she almost called it quits before the final. Her husband and coach since the Beijing Games, Rick, decided she needed to go through with the competition and push forward.

“‘The next day, she qualified [for the worlds],’ Rick said. ‘But if I could do it over, I wouldn’t put my wife out there in that condition.'”

Fortunately, Shur found the answer to all her health-related distress – she has celiac disease. Since going on a gluten-free diet, she’s regaining her strength and feeling more secure in her ability to compete with the top athletes in her sport.

“‘I’m confident now. There’s always setbacks to it. You’ll eat something without knowing there’s gluten in it. But it’s controllable now. Things are looking promising again.’

“Husband Rick seems pleased, ‘We’re right where we need to be. She’s 29. Most vaulters hit their peak around 30 or 31. When we look at it as a whole, she’s won 10 of the last 12 national titles. That’s almost mind-boggling. So we have to stay healthy. That’s a big factor.’”

Jenn’s next big step? Conquering the World Championships, held Aug. 27-Sept. 4. Shur will face two-time Olympic Gold medalist and arch rival, Yelena Isinbayeva of Russia.

To read the entire article, visit BuffaloNews.com.