Jenn Suhr, American Who Won Pole-Vaulting Gold in 2012, Has Contracted a ‘Nasty Virus’ in Rio

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Photo: Franck Fife/AFP/Getty Images

Defending Olympic pole-vaulting champion Jenn Suhr has contracted a mystery illness in Rio that may prevent her from becoming the first American woman to win back-to-back gold medals in the event. Her coach and trainer Rick Suhr announced the illness on Facebook, calling it a “nasty virus.”

Illness or not, Suhr will still compete on Tuesday, her husband insisted in subsequent interviews.

If there’s a silver lining here, it’s that the pole-vault finals will be held on Friday. So if Suhr can tough it out tomorrow, she’ll have a few days to prepare for her medal defense.

Doctors still aren’t sure what’s wrong with Suhr. A reporter for the Buffalo News, Suhr’s hometown paper, tracked her down in Rio on Monday and found her unable to speak above a whisper. Suhr’s husband has already blamed the “stuff” in Rio, which he and his wife tried to avoid by bringing their own food and water.

Given all that the world feared in the lead-up to these Olympics, it’s not really surprising to hear Suhr say that. But it’s worth noting that athletes have not been dropping like flies in Rio. Even those who’ve competed in the fetid stew that Rio calls an ocean have emerged in relatively good shape. So if Suhr got sick sitting in her hotel room, eating food and drinking water she brought, she can at least feel good about the fact that she took every reasonable step to stay healthy.