LetsRun.com Daegu 2011: Jenny Simpson Pulls Shocker, Wins World 1,500m Title
With Uceny Down And Jamal Out, Simpson Goes From 5th-To-First To Win First American 1,500m Gold Since Mary Slaney
September 1, 2011
Daegu, South Korea
New coach. New sponsor. New event. New location.
Jenny Simpson, the same Jenny who ran 3:59 as a collegiate under the coaching of Mark Wetmore, shocked a disheveled field and a worldwide audience under the tutelage of Juli Benson to run away with a stunning Worlds 1,500m victory. Benson rushed on to the track to hug the wide-eyed, elated Simpson, who became the first American-born athlete to win a gold medal at an Olympics or World Championships since the first World Championships in 1983.
Behind Simpson came Great Britain's former NCAA champion at Florida State and current British champion, Hannah England, for silver, with the disqualified winner from the 2009 Worlds, Natalia Rodriguez of Spain, holding on for bronze.
Race Sets Up, Shocking Final 100m
After a slow opening 300m, Bahrain's Mimi Belete went to the front and tried to keep the pace honest. She led at 400 (68.78) and 800 (65.16, 2:13.94). That type of pace did nothing to weed out the field and with 450 meters to go, disaster struck. Kenyan youngster Hellen Obiri went down in the middle of the pack and she took out USA national champ Morgan Uceny with her. They both got up and finished the race but their nights were over.
420 meters from the finish one of the pre-race favorites, two time World Champion, Maryam Jamal, was involved in some contact. While trying to move outside she tripped on the runner in front of her. Jamal only stumbled but would be a non-factor on the final lap. Just before the bell, Natalia Rodriguez took the lead from Belete. Rodriguez maintained the lead down the backstretch and at 200m to go, seven women were in contention. Jenny Simpson was in 6th and Hannah England 7th at this point.
Simpson began her move on the turn and when Rodriguez hit the final straightaway, Simpson had moved wide and into fourth. All that remained in front of her was 100m of blue track. Simpson powered down the homestretch and with roughly 50 meters to go, no one was in front of her. England was closing fast like Simpson, but England had waited trying to find a spot on the rail that did not appear before going wide, so she was 5 meters behind Simpson. There was no catching Jenny, as Simpson crossed the line with eyes wide in disbelief.
She had won the Worlds title for America. England got second and Fernandez held onto third.
Simpson, who had steepled at the last Worlds, closed well (45.8 for 300, 30.9 for 200) off of splits of 68, 65 and 65 to get the title. Her closing splits were far from legendary, but they did not have to be. She was the World Champion.
Simpson's gold was unexpected considering her previous 2011 form, but after her epic 3:59 run at the 2009 Pre Classic, not totally shocking. With that run, Simpson had shown when totally healthy and fit she could run with the best in the world in 2009, and the best of the world in 2011 are not as good as those in 2009. Jenny had not been totally fit and healthy since, but she picked the perfect time to bring her "A" game.
A Long Journey To The Top For Simpson
Running in front of an animated Daegu crowd, Simpson wasn't thinking of time, but of gold, of family, including her younger sister Emily serving in the military in Alabama, and her husband Jason, whom she met in Boulder while in college. "I was surprised I felt very within myself for the entire race," Simpson said after the final, "and so I had another little Prefontaine moment - I'm coming down the stretch thinking, 'How did I get here?'"
Simpson said giving up the steeplechase to focus on the 1,500m was a risk, but she believed she had just an equal or better shot to medal in the 1,500m. She said, "It was very risky and very frightening in a way to change to an event that wouldn't be as easy to make the US team, that wouldn't be as easy to make the final, but I felt I was equally or more prepared to come home with a medal in the 1,500 meters." Jenny credited the steeplechase and having to focus on the barriers to help her in the 1,500m focus solely on her own running and what she needed to do to run faster.
Pointing back to a flu that kept her out of Prefontaine, Jenny called it a pivotal point of her season. She said at the time, "I was ready to feel the season was over" but Juli Benson convinced her otherwise and they re-calibrated the season so once Worlds came around, Jenny was feeling better each race. Simpson noted that the timing seemed to work out perfectly this year, as she still had gears to use in the homestretch. "My body was really ready and my mind was really ready."
Simpson was quick to credit her coach Juli Benson for having her focus on the 1,500m when a lot of people though longer distances were where her future lay. Simpson said, "I really credit my coach for saying we need to focus on one thing and we need to really specialize in the 1,500m if that is what we're going to run." Jenny said the 3:59 magical run at Pre two years ago gave her a lot of confidence and reminded her anything was possible. She said she knew that "No one has done anything here that I wasn't capable of being in contact with. So going into the race, (I knew) there is no reason I shouldn't be up there with everyone else."
Simpson felt at peace all week and credited her faith for some of her success this week. She said, "I have a strong belief that a lot of the joy I have in what I do is I was created to do it. I have a lot of satisfaction that I was made to do something I really enjoy." As for the magical final 100m, maybe a higher power was at work. "I felt during the prelim and final the hardest part was going to be navigating the traffic and I really felt an overwhelming peace that God was going to make a way for me and I felt like in a sense the waters parted for me tonight."
Uceny Happy For Simpson But Devastated For Herself
While Simpson was elated, Uceny was understandably devastated to see her flawless season derailed at its peak moment. Though she'll go back and replay the race to see what she could have done better, it did not appear there was much Uceny could have done, as the runner right in front of her, Obiri, went down hard with no notice to take out her legs in a split second. The fall seemed like terribly bad luck at the end of an otherwise dream season. Uceny, who has been closing out wins in 61 and 29, will have to stew over this loss until she gets to take the big stage again, hopefully for her in 2012 at the London Olympics. "I'm really happy for Jenny. I think she did a great job," Uceny said after the race, "but I'm just frustrated that I came so far and didn't get to showcase what I thought I could."
Sometimes sporting events seem to go exactly as planned, but that certainly was not the case in Daegu Stadium on Thursday night. Simpson becomes the first American since Mary Slaney in 1983 to take home 1,500m gold, while several of the world's best couldn't put forth their best fight. A strange and memorable moment in what has, so far, been a Championships for the underdog.
Results And Race Video Below
Full Post-Race Press Conference With Jenny Simpson, Hannah England And Natalia Rodriguez (Another Interview With Jenny Above)
Morgan Uceny Talks About What Could Have Been And The Fall
QT: We'll save too much analysis for another day. Anyway you cut it, America has a World Champion in Jenny Simpson. As unexpected the win was considering Jenny's prior 2011 form, most of the journalists were in agreement nothing Jenny does will ever shock them after her 3:59 two years ago at Pre. She can run with the best of the world and she more than proved that Thursday night.
|1||919||Jennifer Barringer Simpson||USA||4:05.40|
|6||688||Ingvill Måkestad Bovim||NOR||4:06.85|
|11||586||Hellen Onsando Obiri||KEN||4:20.23|
|12||184||Maryam Yusuf Jamal||BRN||4:22.67|
More Splits (Unofficial From LRC):
700m 1:57.0 (65.3)
1,100m 3:03.0 (66.0)
1,500m 4:05.4 (62.4)
More On The LRC Boards:
*Simpson wins 1500m - Uceny falls!
*Is Jenny Barringer-Simpson the first American woman to win the 1500 gold?
*GUTTED for Morgan Uceny
*Simpson 1 - Doubters 0 - Game Over, An Official Apology From Any And All Doubters