(WIVB) – Rick Soher decided it was mid-April, at the height of the epidemic. He and his wife, Jane, were returning to New York from East Texas, where they owned a winter home and spent several months of the year training at an exercise facility.
Soher has been contemplating a book about Jane’s career in pole vaulting since she won Olympic gold in London in 2012. They’ve sat with two writers over the years, but the book hasn’t quite met. At one point, a prospective author told Rick that he should do just that.
The country was shutting down. Rick remembers that trip to Churchville, how quiet and empty the roads were at the time. He made the trip in 22 hours, and only stopped twice for gas. He had a lot of time to think. And once he gets home, he will have plenty of time to write.
Rick Soher said over the phone on Friday, “I decided,“ The only way to do it and capture the feeling is from our perspective. ”And that’s what I did. I went to the garage. I started writing, I continued writing and I continued writing.
He said, “It was long overdue.” Maybe it was 2012 or before 2016. Writing a book might be difficult. It’s a huge amount of work. “
Soher said that words and memories poured into his iPad. The result – “Running in the Headwind” – is expected to be published sometime next week on Amazon.
Rick didn’t want to reveal too many details about the book. He has always been a mysterious man, warning against public scrutiny. But as the title suggests, it’s basically the story of a coach and an athlete who struggle against long odds to reach the pinnacle of sport – and stay there for longer than imaginable.
He said, “The story is inside you.” There is a lot of knowledge and benefits for people who want to do something, whatever it is. It doesn’t have to be athletics, it can be business, or writing, or anything.
“It is a book about persistent obstacles throughout a lifetime, and how you constantly falter and weigh down barriers.”
Gene Soher, who grew up in Fredonia as Jane Stuchinsky, never made a pole vault when Rick saw her play basketball again in 2004. Jane, who was 6 feet tall, was a record star in Roberts Wesleyan. Rick saw how a potential pole vault champion could.
She was pursuing a master’s degree in psychology at the time, and was considering going into education. Jane, who never shrank from a competitive challenge, gave in to attempted pole vaulting.
“She had to stop getting her master, go to a gas station and clean the toilets and work as a cashier,” said Rick, “to fulfill a dream because a crazy man told her she could be a professional pole vault.
“Anyone in their right mind would leave their master’s program against the advice of anyone else in their life and pursue something most people can’t even understand? Can you even make a living Pole Vault?” He said.
“But look, in struggles you learn passion.”
It is all in the book. Rick said it’s not all good things. There are some cruel things about the media and track and field creation. But it’s also the kind of book young people want to read, to find out how to fulfill their dreams in life.
He said that one of his brothers read the book and cried. He said that Jane cried when she read a class and was reminded of the difficulties she endured on the way to becoming the greatest pole vault player in US history, a two-time Olympic medalist and a 17-time national champion.
Jen said, “The title is kind of what the book is about, having to keep following when you fall, as people tell you, ‘No, you can’t,'” and go against the tide all the time.
“That was how it felt,” she said. “It was a constant battle and overcoming, falling and coming back. Running in headwinds, not just pole vaulting, but in life.”
There was a lot of headwinds along the way. In 2011, Jane was diagnosed with celiac disease, which damaged her physically during that season. Like any pole vault player, I suffered a series of injuries in a cruel and punitive sport.
In 2016, she was at the peak of her fitness for the Rio Games and is looking to repeat as a gold medalist. Shortly after arriving in Brazil, Jane fell ill with a mysterious virus that attacked her respiratory system and left her ill and barely able to jump into the finals.
Jane cried in her short interview in Media Zone after she finished seventh, saying she had given up on Buffalo. She has always felt a strong connection with her hometown, and the blue collar spirit which she considers a vital part of her competitive personality.
In 2008, in her first Olympiad, she won a silver medal in Beijing, losing to Russia’s world record holder Yelena Isinbayeva. Rick was tarnished in the national media for his rough treatment of Jenn after her recent jump, which was captured on NBC.
She later clarified that it was a simple exchange between a coach and an athlete, and said it wouldn’t have been such a big problem if it were a man. Of course, it was helpful for people to know that they were romantically involved at the time. They got married two years later.
So is there, uh, romance in the book?
“It’s not fifty shades of gray,” said Rick.
“That would be really funny,” said Jen, laughing. “It’s going to be a fun reading!”
“In a way, it’s intimate,” he said, “I’d like to say emotional. We’re very special. I’m not very romantic.”
It really is about the passion of the coach and his entourage to beat the odds. Suhr, who was a high school wrestling champion in Spencerport, is one of the best pole vault coaches who have ever lived. He trained three high school kids for national titles before Jane came along, a two-time Ikkos Award winner for Best Track and Field Trainer – the only pole vault coach to do so.
His wife, of course, is his greatest disciple. Rick said that young people assume that Jin has taken a traditional path. They do not understand how difficult it was. They are also in awe. They see Jen, who is 39 in February, and they marvel that she is about age their mother and outdoes them by 3 feet.
“There is no blueprint for this,” said Rick. “If I’m an athlete trying to be an Olympian or a state champion, this is the book. I’m not saying this to sell books, but because I want to go after that kid. I don’t want to hear how you lose; I want you to find a way to win.”
“The book finds a way to win. It’s one of the greatest sports stories. That’s right, that’s the great thing about it! If I write a fiction book, it might not be that good, because I’m not that creative.”
The thing is, the story isn’t over yet. Jin is still competing. In 2017, she retired saying that she had lost her passion for the sport. Rick said she was mentally exhausted by a sport that had pushed many track and field athletes out of the sport. But a year later, she is back and competing again at the highest levels.
“We kind of rediscovered it by being around people who had the passions I had when I was younger,” she said. “We go to Texas in the winter and train around a group of college students. Nothing will get your energy like a group of kids.
“You surround yourself with this kind of energy and it fades on you,” Jin said.
“Where can you get a three-time Olympic coach and a three-time Olympic player working with you at the same time,” said Rick. “He’s a man and a woman, too.”
Suhr made the best jump in the world for the 2020 indoor half season. She ranked second in the national home with one jump. Jin was looking forward to the US trials and the Fourth Olympic Games in Tokyo when the pandemic struck and the Games were postponed for a year.
Jin said, “A year setback wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for.” “It’s roughly like one year equals two years, like dog years.”
She and Rick laughed. “Jane will go out to warm up with a walker. She’ll take the oxygen between jumps.”
Rick said Jin is one of four or five ladies who could win in Tokyo. That is if Covid-19 dampened enough to allow the Olympics. It put it at 50-50, as it did in the March for the 2020 games. Even if there is a vaccine by then, who will get it first?
“Where will the Olympians and the coaches be located. Are we going to have an Olympiad without crowds? There are a lot of scenarios here,” he said.
Soher will be 39 and a half years old if she takes part in Tokyo. Most pole vault players peak after 30. Some of the women who compete with them are literally half their lives, jumpers who liked them when they were young.
What a great scenario if Jane actually won a gold medal next summer. That would make a great ending for the story. As Rick says, it would be better than fiction.