Fredonia Gets Silver
A few days ago, I wrote about, Jenn Stuczynski, like me a native of tiny Fredonia, N.Y. and America's best female pole vaulter. And then I never followed up. Well, as if you didn't know, Monday night Beijing time, Jenn became Fredonia's first Olympic silver medalist, and 10,000 people plus at least one blogger rejoiced.
"I think this is probably one of the most exciting things to happen to Fredonia in 40-some years, if not THE most," Fredonia Mayor Michael Sullivan--a fifth-generation Fredonian and lifelong resident--told me yesterday. "We had the Bills camp here, but that was every year. It became a routine. It got old.
"This, you've got someone from your town who's made the national stage, is at the biggest event in the world, and finishes second? The publicity it's brought to this village and the interest that it's instilled in people in sports, boy I tell you, in 48 years I can't remember anything that would have this big an impact."
Sullivan, whose mayorship is a part-time gig, was working at the county courthouse when the medals were decided; his cell phone started blowing up with texts. Sullivan told me the village plans to erect a flag pole and plaque in Jenn's honor in West Barker Commons, the downtown park. (The other half of the park already has a flag pole, in honor of local veterans.) The pole would be visible when you come to Main Street into downtown, and would be marked with the heights of Jenn's various vaulting accomplishments.
The local Olympics Celebration Committee met Tuesday night to discuss how to honor with Jenn, with options including hanging a banner across one of the main drags and hosting a dinner and fireworks display, according to the local paper. Sullivan told me they're still waiting to hear from her agent about when she can come home for a victory parade. And a local columnist wrote a piece defending Jenn against an AP columnist, who criticized her for trash talking.
As for Jenn, how did she spend the night after her triumph?
"Afterwards? What did I do?" she asked herself Tuesday, following a meeting with the press. "We went to see my parents at a hotel, then I caught a cab back to the [Athletes] village and then I went into the cafeteria, got some food and went to bed."
So, um, she won a silver medal at her first Olympics, and then celebrated with a meal in the Athletes village cafeteria?
"Yeah, by myself," she said with a laugh. "Ziti noodle pasta. You know, it's hard to celebrate here, because my family's not here right now. They're all back [in Western New York], all my friends are back. So the celebration...we're taking it easy right now and when we go home we're gonna be pretty excited and glad it's over. I understand why it's every four years now. It just takes a lot out of you."
After all of this craziness, she's not yet sure if she'll compete any more this season, despite the fact that several European meets remain. But her career is far from over; the 26-year old said she plans to compete "as long as my body will hold up," but that "once I start to break down, I'm done. I don't want to hurt."
Also, she sounds like everyone I went to high school with; the accent is strong with this one. To keep the propaganda machine going, I asked her to help explain why so many of us have such great feelings for our hometown.
"It's comfortable," she said, which is about as apt a two-word explanation as I could imagine. "We go back and we just find it relaxing."
Speaking of relaxing, the look on Jenn's face Tuesday--pure relief--was considerably different than on Saturday, when she looked about as relaxed as an Olympic security guard. She said the tension had been building since the U.S. trials.
"You start to think, 'Oh, I could win this and go to the Olympics,' and then all of the sudden there's a lot more pressure," she told me. "And it's not what you [imagine], where you'd go and be excited. You're excited, but there's a lot of pressure and responsibility that comes with it, too. You know, that's stuff I didn't ever even think about it.
"It's definitely a relief. It's definitely like, 'all right, it's over.' The season's a success. We could end it today and be happy."
As for our hometown folks, "people are already trying to get hotel rooms for 2012 in London," the mayor told me. "The fact that it's silver instead of gold doesn't make a bit of difference to anybody in this town."
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