The Chautauqua Star

Suhr Offers New Look On Olympics

I’ll be honest, the Olympics just don’t quite have the luster that I once remembered. There are a few days each year that I anticipate more than others on the sports schedule. About a dozen.

So you would think that when the Olympics roll around every four years – or technically two – that they’d be a big deal to me. Must-see TV, right?

Well this year it’s been a defiant no.

Maybe it’s the forced grown-up in me. Having to work during the daytime has certainly cut into this Olympics, and I’m just not the kind of guy who can watch a tape-delayed event. And with the games across the pond, all live events are on when you are scrambling to decide what to have for lunch.

So, no, I haven’t watched much of this year’s Olympiad. A few basketball games here and there. But not once have I flipped ion during prime time.

So thank you Jenn Suhr. Because Monday afternoon – on my busiest day of the week here at the Star – I was glued to my computer watching Suhr chase gold.

Suhr’s run to gold dialed up my American pride so much that I was back and forth with American women’s semi-final soccer match with Canada going on at the same time, which also happened to be one of the better soccer matches of all time.

But it was Suhr who got that all started. Ironic for me in the sense that the one event that got me back into the Olympics was pole vaulting. I was in college for the 2008 games and admittedly had no idea who Suhr was. So this was my first pole vault experience.

No, pole vaulting isn’t the type of nail-biting event that captivates a national audience, but having an athlete from such a small town competing at the highest level is what makes the Olympics so special. It’s not about football, or the other football, or even basketball – although it is still the best.

It may not be the kind of can’t-miss TV in the sense that your favorite team is playing and you haven’t missed a game in years. I’ll also never be in the position to be counting down the days until the next Olympics, or the next pole vault competition in this case.

But, maybe I’ve finally learned the true importance of these games and it’s because of Suhr. You see sports has grown into an entity that solely relies on winning. Look, it’s not a bad thing, but that’s what separates the Olympics from normal sporting events.

Hey, we’re all glad Suhr won gold, but it’s pretty cool that we can celebrate her achievements – and that’s the thing. I’m not just talking about her winning. Getting to the Olympics is such an achievement in itself. It was fascinating to see the town of Fredonia rally around an athlete like a professional sports team well before the games and her event even started.

You rooted for her to win, but did so because of the hometown feel. Maybe you knew her or knew of her. Or, you’re familiar with her family. Maybe you just feel the local pride of her being from your hometown.

Even me, without a previous connection to Fredonia, was glued rooting for a person I had never met largely because of all the great people in this area I have been fortunate to meet.

But what would have been different had she not won? Hopefully nothing. Because while gold is what she will be remembered forever in this town, I’ll remember the entire buildup of having a local athlete in the games.

And that’s just the best part. These games gave Fredonia and Western New York a chance to be in the national spotlight. Even Buffalo and Rochester, relatively small cities in the grand scheme of things, sent writers to London to cover Suhr. She’s not the only example, but it’s the most meaningful one in this case.

I’m always proud to be able to have this job, but it was even better to closely follow an Olympian’s chase throughout the entire year. And I’m sure that feeling resonated better with those of you who have been around much, much longer than me.

Regardless, it got me into the Olympic mood again. I finished off the women’s soccer game. Moved on to the men’s basketball game. Men’s and women’s volleyball in the coming days. More track and field events with some of those athletes who are representing their small towns like Suhr.

Every sports fan sort of has their own memory of a long tournament like the Olympics. Something small like the Vince Carter dunk in 2000 – have I told you how much I like basketball? Ryan Miller stealing the show in 2010. Even gymnast Shawn Johnson in 2008.

For others, Mary Lou Retton in the all-around in 1984, probably. The men’s ice hockey team in 1980. The Black Panther salute in 1968.

But while I was busy missing this year’s games, so too was my lasting memory.

Not anymore. Now I have Jenn Suhr to thank for that.

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