Olympics Jerk Watch: Meet the Pole Vault Coach Who Will Berate You for Winning a Silver Medal

A Blog About the Olympic Games
Aug. 7 2012 3:59 PM

Olympics Jerk Watch: Meet the Pole Vault Coach Who Will Berate You for Winning a Silver Medal

Jenn Suhr
Jenn Suhr competes in the pole vault at the London Olympics.

Photo by Hannah Johnston/Getty Images.

Nominee: Rick Suhr

Home country: United States of America

Advertisement

Known for: Pole vault coaching, tough loving.

Why he might be a jerk: Suhr, the husband and coach of gold medalist Jenn Suhr, lives up to every negative stereotype you’ve ever heard about pole vault coaches. At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, after Jenn Suhr (then known as Jenn Stuczynski) took the silver medal in the women’s pole vault, NBC cameras captured Rick—then her coach but not yet her husband—apparently criticizing her for her second-place finish. “You weren’t on, your warm-up didn’t go well. You were at 55. You got caught up in that meat grinder. Whaddaya gonna do? (shrugs, looks away) Whaddaya gonna do? (shrugs, looks away).” To add insult to insult, he was texting somebody the whole time. More recently, Jenn Suhr expressed shock that, prior to Monday’s pole vault finals, Rick had told her he thought she was going to win the event: “I've competed 100 times and that's not something he says.”

Suhr has always been an intense guy, it seems. Two YouTube videos of Suhr in his high school wrestling days show him pinning opponent after opponent in montages set to Linkin Park’s “Numb” and Drowning Pool’s “Let the Bodies Hit the Floor”—both exceedingly jerky songs. “Rick Suhr teaches more than the pole vault," said one of the pole vault coach’s defenders. "He teaches toughness." But isn’t that the exact sort of thing people say about jerks to explain away their jerkiness?

Why he might not be a jerk: Though the Beijing incident inspired widespread Internet outrage, Jenn Stuczynski defended her coach, saying that NBC cameras didn’t capture their whole exchange, and that he had been texting his son to inform him that Jenn had won the silver medal. After winning gold on Monday, she reiterated her praise for Rick, saying: “People are like, ‘Your coach is intense.’ But it’s because he has that passion and knows how much I want it.” And Rick’s not always gruff: In a Q-and-A session posted online, he set the interviewer at ease by saying, “I won’t yell at you. I promise.”

Jerk score: I’ll give him 1.5 out of 3 for style, because though he verbally criticized Stuczynski after her silver medal, a real jerk would have also been texting her with the message “BAD JOB.” 1 out of 3 for technical merit, because he really doesn’t seem that much more jerky than most high-level coaches. 2 out of 3 for consistency, because he inexplicably held back from publicly berating his wife after she won gold. And 1 out of 1 in the “have you ever appeared in a YouTube video set to the tune of ‘Let the Bodies Hit the Floor’ ” category. 5.5 out of 10 for Rick Suhr.

 

TODAY IN SLATE

History

The Self-Made Man

The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.

Michigan’s Tradition of Football “Toughness” Needs to Go—Starting With Coach Hoke

Does Your Child Have “Sluggish Cognitive Tempo”? Or Is That Just a Disorder Made Up to Scare You?

The First Case of Ebola in America Has Been Diagnosed in Dallas

Windows 8 Was So Bad That Microsoft Will Skip Straight to Windows 10

Politics

Mad About Modi


Why the controversial Indian prime minister drew 19,000 cheering fans to Madison Square Garden.


Building a Better Workplace

You Deserve a Pre-cation

The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.

Don’t Panic! The U.S. Already Stops Ebola and Similar Diseases From Spreading. Here’s How.

Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD

The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 30 2014 9:33 PM Political Theater With a Purpose Darrell Issa’s public shaming of the head of the Secret Service was congressional grandstanding at its best.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 30 2014 7:02 PM At Long Last, eBay Sets PayPal Free
  Life
Gaming
Sept. 30 2014 7:35 PM Who Owns Scrabble’s Word List? Hasbro says the list of playable words belongs to the company. Players beg to differ.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 30 2014 3:21 PM Meet Jordan Weissmann Five questions with Slate’s senior business and economics correspondent.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 30 2014 8:54 PM Bette Davis Talks Gender Roles in a Delightful, Animated Interview From 1963
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 30 2014 7:00 PM There’s Going to Be a Live-Action Tetris Movie for Some Reason
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 30 2014 6:44 PM Ebola Was Already Here How the United States contains deadly hemorrhagic fevers.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 30 2014 5:54 PM Goodbye, Tough Guy It’s time for Michigan to fire its toughness-obsessed coach, Brady Hoke.