My first appreciation of the fact that Jenn Stuczynski was a pole vault goddess when she cleared 4.88 meters ( that is sixteen feet) at the Reebok Grand Prix, New York in 2007. I first recognized that she was a champion, when after the nightmare in Osaka, where everything went wrong, in her first World Outdoor, Stuczynski regrouped, and ended up with the silver medal in Beijing, one year later. True champions rise from the memories of bad experiences, and Jenn Stuczynski, in her short career, has experienced both the highs and lows of being an elite athlete.
The pole vault is track & field's answer to five card stud. A successful vaulter must have huge physical talents: however, her mental talents must be just as dominating!
Yelena Isinbayeva is such an example. It is not only her dominating physicality that puts her ahead of all of the other women vaulters, it is her mental toughness and her ability to totally dominate tactically the event. Isinbayeva's new coaching relationship with Vitaly Petrov, the former coach of Sergei Bubka, took two years for her to reach her next level--she is confident, and she is looking for competition. I believe that competition will come from Jenn Stuczynski.
Stuczysnki can be that good, someday. And someday is not far off. Her absolute gamble for everything at the U.S. Olympic Trials showed that: on the last attempt, she either made it or was off the team. After she made, it, she upped her American record! I remember watching her gamble all on one jump, in conditions that were, chancy at best. That is what a champion athlete does, and does, and does.
In a recent conversation with an elite sports psychologist, I was told that in any Olympic final, there are three, perhaps five, athletes who might possess all of the skill sets to become an Olympic champion. That makes a lot of sense, on many levels.
In the pole vault, on the women's side, Isinbayeva and Stuczysnski are the two most dominant vaulters ( apologies to Svetlana Feofanova) in this time period. Look at Stacy Dragila, the Joan Benoit Samuelson of the women's pole vault, a women who trail blazed for the pole vault before many of the young women vaulting now knew the event existed. The class she shows, and the mental toughness that she shows, overcoming several surgeries, to continue to improve in 2009, is not only inspiring, it is an example of what elite athletes at all levels need to be dominating factors in their events.