August 15, 2013
Two years ago, Jenny Simpson left the IAAF World Championships in Daegu with a gold medal in the women’s 1500.
This year, after the women’s 1500 final was run tonight in Luzhniki Stadium, Simpson is leaving with a silver medal, but she’ll leave with these championships with perhaps something more important – total respect from US distance aficionados. Jenny Simpson in our book is now the greatest US women’s 1500 runner in history.
Simpson’s gold two years ago came against arguably the weakest field up top in World Championship history (2011 is the only year since 1977 that a woman didn’t break the 4:00.00 barrier for 1500). That race also had a fall by eventual World #1 Morgan Uceny.
Tonight, Simpson was facing four women who’d run under 3:59 this year including favorite Abeba Aregawi of Sweden – a 3:56 performer last year and this. In the end, Aregawi was the champion in 4:02.67 after a 58.8 last lap, but only after Simpson had pushed her to the limit and nearly come back on her in the last 50 meters.
Simpson was a much-deserved second in 4:02.99, after a courageous display of front-running. Kenya’s champion Hellen Obiri took third in 4:03.86, to earn Kenya’s first-ever women’s 1500 medal of any color at the World Championships.
Great Britain’s Hannah England closed very well coming down the homestretch just as she did in 2011 when she snagged the silver medal behind Simpson. This time England ended up fourth in 4:04.98, just ahead of Kenya’s teenage national record holder (3:56.98) Faith Kipyegon of Kenya, who let up just before the line and ended up fifth in 4:05.08 as a result. America’s teenage phenom, Mary Cain, who is just 17 as compared to Kipyegon’s 19, was a non-factor when the real race began on the last lap and ended up 10th in 4:07.19.
Ethiopia’s Genzebe Dibaba, who had run 3:57.54 earlier this year, was a non-factor as well as she was just eighth in 4:05.99.
The start of the race was delayed because the high jump went long, as Ukraine’s Bohdan Bondarenko was standing in the middle of the track making three attempts at a world record. Once underway, the race started with a very quick opening 100 as the two Americans got out up front. After a 15-point opening 100, Simpson took the lead with Cain just behind her.
Simpson stayed up front in first or second for the entire rest of the race as she took the field through opening splits of 65.73 and 2:13.92. While Cain would drift to the back of the field by the time they reached the bell (3:03.78), Simpson was tracked most of the time by Abeba Aregawi who was right on her shoulder from 700 meters in. Aregawi ran the first 700 out in lane two but made a nice move into second just before 700 to get into a perfect spot on Simpson’s side in the outside of lane 1 .
Just before 1200 (3:18.91), Aregawi went to the lead. The race was officially on.
Simpson started to get gapped and it looked halfway down the homestretch as if perhaps she was going to get passed by the two Kenyans (Obiri and Kipyegon) right behind her and maybe even Australia’s Zoe Buckman as those three runners responded first to Aregawi’s big surge.
But just as Simpson was about to cede second-place, she changed gears and responded. Heading into the final 200, Simpson was right behind Aregawi but by the start of the homestretch Simpson was close to 5 meters down. The battle for gold seemed to be over but then Simpson started to creep back on Aregawi about 60 meters from the finish.
Might Simpson gun her down at the line? Not quite. Aregawi hung on for a 5-meter victory as Simpson was second and Obiri third.
We caught up and were part of two separate interviews with both Cain and Simpson after the race. (If you are true track nerd, you can quickly read word-for-word what they said as Letsrun.com visitor Dennis Young transcribed them. Thank you Dennis for letting us try and get to bed at a decent hour. Alternatively, you can listen/watch them as well here)
Cain gave an interesting set of interviews after the race. While disappointed in her showing in the final, she thought the whole experience of Moscow 2013 was going to be very good for her in the long-term.
“Aw geez. I’m not even, like sad, I’m just angry, and I think that’s a good thing. It was all a learning experience, this whole meet, and I think this is going to make me super pissed for Beijing [site of the 2015 WCs]. I’m going to go in there and try to kill as many people as possible,” said Cain.
“I mean, I know that I have to put things in perspective. When I was on the line, I was like “So many kids my age would just die to do this.” But I’m a tough person, I expect a lot from myself. I think it’s going to be good later tonight to refocus. I don’t know what happened, I really don’t. I was in there, and I was running to win. And that’s crazy; I know. I think a lot of people didn’t even think I could get out of the heats.”
Quik Thought (QT) #1 Aregawi Is Tremendously Good: In our preview, we said Aregawi might be one of, if not the best, presumably clean 1500 runners in the history of the event as those ahead of her on the all-time list are a who’s who of former dopers or suspected dopers. Aregawi lived up to that great billing tonight and is a deserved champion (Had she not been competing against suspected dopers last year, she very well could have been last year’s champion as well).
The 2013 World leader is undefeated on the year (12 for 12 at all distances counting heats). She closed in 58.8 (29.1 last 200) to win.
QT #2: The Simpson of 2013 Would Crush Simpson of 2011: Simpson’s run wasn’t quite as good as Aregawi’s but it was really, really good on an absolute scale. All summer long, we’ve thought the Simpson in 2013 is way better than the Simpson of 2011.
Simpson officially agrees with us saying the Simpson of 2013 beats the Simpson of 2011 “nine races out of ten.”
We (and Simpson) aren’t blinded by the color of the medal she earned but rather by the stats. In winning in 2011, Simpson closed in roughly 61.2 to win a 4:05.40 race. Tonight she closed in 59.21 (29.2 last 200) and ran 4:02.99 in a race where the leaders splits were very similar to each other (800 split was 2:13.94 in 2011 versus 2:13.92 this year and 1100 split was 3:03.47 in 2011 versus 3:03.78 this year).
QT #3: Mary Cain’s “Worst” Finish of the Year: As for Cain, tonight’s race was really the second race she was uncompetitive in all year long. However, in the grand scheme of things, she had an unbelievable year. Remember back in April, she was placing 6th at the Drake Relays, now she’s 10th in the World.
Expectations for Cain got a little of whack after she placed fourth in her semifinal. Looking back, it’s clear her semifinal was significantly easier than the other one. The people who went 1-3-2 in the other semifinal went 1-2-3 in the final tonight. And the fifth person in the other semifinal (Hannah England) was fourth in the final.
Cain said her season is over now and she’ll look forward to being back on the circuit next year.
QT #4 Simpson GOAT?: Who deserved the title of greatest US women’s 1500 runner before tonight? That’s a good question. Considering the only two previous earners of a gold (Mary Slaney in 1983) or silver medal (Regina Jacobs in 1997 and 1999) in the women’s 1500 for the US at Worlds are both undeserving of that title as they have doping suspensions of their CVs and that’s an automatic disqualifier in our book, we guess the honor belonged to Suzy Favor Hamilton.
QT #5: A US medal at 3 straight Worlds: Speaking of Jacobs and Slaney. Coming into 2009, the US had won three medals total in the women’s 1500 in the history of Worlds which started in 1983. Now the US has won a medal in the event at three straight Worlds.
2009: Shannon Rowbury bronze
2011: Jenny Simpson gold
2013: Jenny Simpson silver.
QT #6: 4th placer Hannah England was a mix of emotions after the race.
England was crying, laughing, and smiling in the mixed zone, as she exhibited a range of emotions. England ran very well, but not well enough for a medal. Hannah had been so laser focused on Worlds, that everything came out afterwards. Video interview worth a watch here.
QT #7: Hellen Obiri earns Kenya its first WC 1500m medal: Coming into tonight, many may find it hard to believe but the Kenyan women had never won a medal of any color in the women’s 1500 at Worlds (they only have a single on in the history of the Olympic 1500 – Nancy Langat‘s gold in 2008). Obiri was happy to break that streak.
She said she’s going to go back to Kenya and call it a season and get ready to try to defend her world indoor 3000 crown (audio interview here).
QT #8: A pat on the back for all the finalists All of the finalists deserve some credit for making it to the final 12. Ace stat man Ken Nakamura is reporting that 4:05.36 did not make the final of the women’s 1500m and that is the fastest time that did not make the final in the World Championships. Previously, the fastest time that did not make the final was 4:05.72 from 1999.
QT #9 Aregawi’s making noise off the track: Things got a little crazy when a post-race reporter asked Abeba Aregawi if her marriage is fake as apparently a Finnish newspaper as reported as such. The Ethiopian born and raised Aregawi received Swedish citizenship last year before the Olympics (where she ran for Ethiopia) because she’s married to an Ethiopian-born Swede. Aregawi’s English and Swedish both aren’t good, but she indicated the marriage was not fake.
Aregawi at the post-race press conference was asked about her teammate Emma Green Tregaro painting her nails in the color of a rainbow in opposition to Russia’s new anti-gay law. Aregawi was asked if she supported her teammates and responded via translator, “My faith does not allow that. I do not support it.”
Results appear below and then some screen shots so you can visually see the race. US visitors can watch a race replay on youtube here.
|3||570||Hellen Onsando OBIRI||KEN||4:03.86|
|5||566||Faith Chepngetich KIPYEGON||KEN||4:05.08|
|9||567||Nancy Jebet LANGAT||KEN||4:06.01|
800M : 2:13.92 : Jennifer SIMPSON
1200M: 3:18.91 Abeba AREGAWI
Splits 300 – 700 -1100: 58.6 -1:56.9 – 3:03.78