Jenn Stuczynski...One Year Later, The Coaching Athletics Interview



Photos of Jenn Stuczynski and her clearance of the new American record at 4.90 meters, 16 feet, 3/4 of an inch, Photos courtesy of

In the Spotlight: Jenn Stuczynski…One Year Later

Note: This interview was done over two days in May 2008 at the adidas Track Classic. Jenn Stuczynski has been very gracious to Coaching Athletics Quarterly over the past couple of years. We wanted to thank adidas, Jenn Stuczynski and Global Athletics & Marketing.

(This part of the interview was done on May 16, 2008, prior to the adidas Track Classic. The interview was done in question and answer in a session including a dozen of the top sports writers from around the globe, including the LA Times, Lequipe, Spanish and Italian sports press, USA Track & Field and the IAAF. These sessions are set up, especially during Olympic years. On this day, we had access to Jenn Stuczysnki, Veronica Campbell-Brown, Bianca Knight, Jeremy Wariner and Tyson Gay.)

Coaching Athletics: Tell us how you felt with your competition at Modesto last week, where you cleared 4.70 meters (15-5)?

JS: Modesto was a good opportunity. I had some good workouts. 4.70 meters, or 15-5, was my highest opening ever. I tried 4.90 meters, a new American record, and [had] three misses. The winds were good, and I actually had jumped in that height in warm-ups."

Coaching Athletics: Does your training change in an Olympic year?

JS: My training does not change during an Olympic year. A qualifying round is just like a practice jump, then I recover. Then, I have the finals. Our event is not as taxing as the others (with the rounds).

Coaching Athletics: How did the experience at the World Outdoors in Osaka motivate you for this year?

JS: Worlds was really disappointing; I had good workouts going into it, but it all fell apart. I was out for two and a half months. I could lift, but not run, doing workouts half-hearted. It was very difficult and frustrating.

I had a little anxiety with World Indoors [Championship], and being able to overcome that, turning a negative into a positive, it gives you motivation.

(This second part of the interview was done one-on-one, with Jenn, being quite patient as I attempted to recharge my computer battery. The interview took place on May 16, 2008).

Coaching Athletics: What the biggest lesson that you have learned over the last year?

Jenn: Be patient with the jump, and stick with it.

Coaching Athletics: Tell us about the adidas Track Classic last year?

Jenn: Last year, the warm-up did not go well. I learned that the warm-up is not always good. When it does not go well, I do not bag the meet. The first two clearances were not clicking. I did not get discouraged. I kept working, and it kept getting better.

Coaching Athletics: How did you cope with the bad warm-up? What did you learn?

Jenn: I learned that once the warm-up is over, it is another chance. Your warm-up and your competition are two different times.

Coaching Athletics: Do you plan your season out for the year?

Jenn: We plan the season. Actually, it is mostly done by my coach. Peaking, lifting, and that, it is planned by my coach. No one can say when I will wake up sore with anything; then we make changes.

Coaching Athletics: How important is it to have a coach?

Jenn: I do not know how they do it without a coach. Coaching the pole vault is a very specific event. The coach makes people better.

Coaching Athletics: How have you dealt with competing with Yelena Isinbayeva, the current world record holder?

Jenn: The first time I competed against her was last year. It was a new situation. Isinbayeva was one of the people I see online. Then, I saw her, and I got a normal sense of a person. There is so much hype. She is a person, too, and she is competing, like me.

Coaching Athletics: What did you learn in Valencia (the World Indoors Championship)?

Jenn: Oh, I learned several things at Valencia. First, I was in the worst position, I competed first, and I had to make the bar. Each time I made the bar, the next person would make the bar. It was a bit strange. Second, it was critical that I made my first clearance or the other girls could play off my clearance or non-clearance. Thirdly, it was a difficult situation, there was some anxiety, it was difficult to get a good outcome. And finally, I was quite nervous due to being the first one up, but I made a statement clearing the heights in that position. I learned a lot!

Coaching Athletics: What about overcoming injuries?

Jenn: There was lots of mental discouragement. First, I can't train. Others are getting better, and I am not. Just doing simple things--I could go for a walk--helped my sanity at that point. Keep yourself calm, and do not try and come back too early. When the doctor says three weeks, that does not mean a week and one half. That means three weeks! ( Laughs)

Coaching Athletics: What is the biggest focus?

Jenn: …the [Olympic] Trials, then qualifying and going to the Olympics and performing well. I am going to China early. I am trying to eat more fish, eat it and like it, well, eventually. (Smiles)

Coaching Athletics: What was the biggest mistake you have made in the pole vault?

Jenn: Competing too much...I competed in so many events in college that I had overuse injuries. I wish that I had focused. I can not do a hundred things, but, you name it, I was trying to do it. The pole vault is a hard and technical sport.

Coaching Athletics: How do you deal with the accusations thrown at the sport and athletes, especially with the Trevor Graham court case? [Graham was coach to Marion Jones, Justin Gatlin and Tim Montgomery--he has had nine drug positives on the athletes he coached.]

Jenn: This is my irst question ever on drugs in our sport. Everyone is skeptical. From this point on, we need to be honest with ourselves and everything, think of the consequences, what a disgrace to family, friends, and country. Things will change.

(The final stage of the interview was done in the media tent at the adidas Track Classic. Jenn Stuczysnki had cleared 4.67 meters, or 15-02.5, and had won the competition after her first jump. She then had the bar raised to 4.90 meters, a height of 16 feet, 3/4 of an inch, a new American record. On her first attempt, she
took the bar down with her attempted clearance.

On the second jump, Stuczynski took a strong run, planted well, and catapulted herself over the bar, with probably six inches clearance! With this jump, not only was Jenn the American record holder at 4.90 meters, she was the second best performer and performance ever in the world ! [Svetlana Feofanova had been tied with her for the equal third performer of all times.]

Jenn made three gallant attempts at 5.02 meters, sixteen feet, five and one half inches, but the 110 degree heat beating down on her, and the changing winds did her in.)

Coaching Athletics: So, tell us about your record jump?

Jenn: Well, the warm-up went well. I cleared 4.67 meters and moved it up to 4.90 meters. I made some mistakes on the first attempt. On my second attempt, once I planted, I knew I was over!

Coaching Athletics: How did your attempts at the world record go?

Jenn: I made three good attempts. The winds had changed, and I think, well, it was very hot out there. It is not this hot in Syracuse!

Coaching Athletics: Where else will you compete?

I will be in New York (Reebok Grand Prix) and then the Olympic Trials.

(And with that, the interview was over. The heat was intolerable, and the athletes were feeling the effects. Note that Mark Fountain, an Australian miler, was given an IV after his event! Special thanks and congrats to Jenn Stuczynski's coach, Rick Suhr. )

Jenn Stuczynski will be next competing at the Reebok Grand Prix, NYC this weekend, May 31 at Randalls Stadium, NYC, NY.

This interview was edited by Sue Hall, Managing Editor of Coaching Athletics. The Summer issue of Coaching Athletics Quarterly, out in June, is sent to qualified head college, community college and elite track club coaches free of charge in North America. $40 for a one year to libraries and track enthusiasts, $80 in Europe, Asia,
includes air shipping. The Summer issue will feature: Pole Vault Safety, The Limits of Athletics and Athletes, by Sergei Bubka, Triple Jump Training by Doug Todd, and a mid season Track Spike update. For more information on Coaching Athletics Quarterly, please send your request to [email protected].

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