LONDON — Jenn Suhr walked with a purpose over to the stands to see her husband, who gingerly wrapped an American flag around her shoulders while she sobbed into his chest.
Yes, they’ve come a long way together. From training in a pair of huts connected together to form a jumping pit — to winning an Olympic gold medal on her sport’s grandest stage.
Suhr, America’s best female pole vaulter for the better part of a half-dozen years, got the Olympic gold she needed to round out her resume.
She vaulted 15 feet, 7 inches (4.75 meters) to defeat Cuba’s Yarisley Silva, who cleared the same height but lost on a tiebreaker because she had one more miss in the competition.
Suhr also beat two-time defending Olympic champion Yelena Isinbayeva of Russia, who failed to become the first woman to win the same individual track and field event at three consecutive Olympics. Isinbayeva settled for bronze with a vault of 15-5 (4.70).
The Suhr victory, finished out in the spitting rain at Olympic Stadium after all the other events had concluded, was a surprise gold for the United States on a night when it couldn’t catch a break anywhere else.
Two-time Olympic gold medalist Angelo Taylor staggered to the finish in the men’s 400-meter hurdles for fifth place in a race won by 35-year-old Felix Sanchez of the Dominican Republic, who beat American Michael Tinsley to the line.
Defending champion LaShawn Merritt of the U.S. wasn’t even in the 400-meter final after pulling up with a hurt hamstring in the semifinals the day before. With no other American men in that final, 19-year-old Kirani James gave Grenada its first-ever Olympic medal. He took the lead at the halfway point and ran hard to the finish line even though he hardly needed to — winning in 43.94 seconds.
It was the first time since the Moscow Games in 1980 that someone other than an American won the men’s 400.
“It’s probably crazy at home right now,” James said. “There’s probably a road party right now in the streets. I don’t think there are any words to describe the celebration right now.”