So how did U.S. pole vaulter Jenn Stuczynki, who has only been competing in her sport for four years and was taking part in her first Olympic Games, do in Beijing last night? Listen to the message conveyed to her by her coach, Rick Suhr, and try and figure it out. Here's a hint: The answer is at the end of Suhr's speech.
Yeah, that's right ... Olympic rookie Stuczynki won the silver medal. Finished behind only Russia's Yelena Isinbayeva, who's only the best female pole vaulter of all time and who broke her own world record - again - last night just 'cause she could. It should have been the crowning achievement of Stuczynki's brief career, and a clear sign of what she might accomplish in the next few years. And she looked as happy as she should have been - until Coach Suhr offered his words of "encouragement", leaving his athlete looking as if her boyfriend had broken up with her and then run over her cat for good measure.
I get that different coaches have different motivational techniques, but I don't know how well it works to throw your athlete under the bus on national television (remember, Suhr knew he was mic'ed up) within minutes of her career peak, within minutes of besting everyone in the world save the titan of her freakig sport (who seems to be a piece of work herself). Having perused the blogosphere, I know what it can do - get you accused of being the lousiest and most uncouth coach in recent history - and that's saying something. Billy Martin would be taken aback by Suhr's grandstanding antics, including the tone of his voice and the body language he used in "communicating" with Stuczynki. To her credit, I have yet to see any articles in which she takes Suhr to task. Maybe that's just out of respect - the respect she should have earned from Suhr last night, if not before. Personally, I'm hoping for the moment when Stuczynski's camp announces that she is moving on to new management, as it were.