World Champion Yuliya Zaripova Becomes Olympic Steeplechase Champion At 2012 London Olympics

American Emma Coburn Sets New Personal Best In Finishing 9th

August 6, 2012
London, England

Reigning World Champion Yuliya Zaripova of Russia came in as the woman to beat in the steeple and she lived up to her end of the bargain, as she led wire-to-wire and won in a new personal best of 9:06.72 (previous best of 9:07:03) in a steeplechase race that went very much according to form.

The runner-up was the same person who was runner-up at Worlds last year - Tunisia's Habiba Ghribi, who dipped under 9:10 for the first time at 9:08.37 (previous PR of 9:11.97). Ethiopia's Sofia Assefa just held off Kenya's Milcah Chemos at the line 9:08.94 to 9:08.98 for the bronze or the top three results would have been the same as last year in Daegu.

Zaripova's win means that Russia has now won both of the women's Olympic steeplechases that have been held in history. The previous Olympic champion Gulnara Galkina was in the race but dropped out with roughly two laps remaining.

US Champ Emma Coburn of Colorado finished in the top 10 in ninth in a new PR of 9:23.54 (previous PR 9:25.28 ) as the other American Bridget Franek ended up last of the finishers in 9:45.51.

The Race

World And Now Olympic
Champ Yuiliya Zaripova

The race started with Zaripova going to the front and setting an honest pace in the 9:18 range as she covered her first kilometer in 3:06.24 and second in 3:05.36 (6:11.60)

She'd stay up front and on that pace until she really tightened the screws over the last 1km and blew everyone away on the last lap, with a big last 250.

Since the pace was honest, fewer and fewer could maintain contact with the lead group as the race progressed. With three laps remaining, the lead pack was down to seven.

Heading into the next-to-last water jump, the lead group consisted of the five women you'd have thought would be in the top five coming into the Games. The five that were still in contention with 150 meters left were the only five women in the field who had gone sub-9:20 this year and they'd all actually all gone sub-9:14, so it made sense that they were clear of everyone else.

Zaripova put a bit of surge in just before the water jump, but at the bell there were still four tightly bunched. But there was no doubt who was best over the last 250 meters here. Zaripova was dominant - just not quite as dominant as she was last year at Worlds when she won by 4.94 seconds.

Medallists React
Like a lot of Olympic champions, Zaripova had a tough time expressing how she felt. She said, "I don't have enough words to express my feelings. I probably don't realize I am an Olympic champion. Probably after one week I will be able to realize it."

Ghribi was pleased with silver, saying, "I did think at one point I could win a gold medal but I had an injury at the beginning of the year so I had to get over that and get back to my level. The Russian girl was very, very good. I'm very happy with the silver medal. It's a historic medal for Tunisia, and Tunisian women especially. I really hope I can get a gold medal and bring it back to my country."

Defending Olympic champ Galkina was upset not to defend her title after giving birth to a daughter in 2010. She said, "I am really upset, I cannot say any more."

American Reaction

Colorado Buffalo Emma Coburn left her first Olympics with a 9:23.54 PR (previous best 9:25.28) and 9th place finish.

Coburn left pleased but wanting more, saying, "I'm happy with a couple of seconds PR, I was hoping to run a little bit faster, but for my first time around at the Olympics, I'm happy with how I did."

Coburn struggled with the yo-yo type pace. She said after a super-slow first 400 it felt like a "workout where you push hard for two minutes and then rest easy for three minutes. It felt like that. Then at the end when they started running fast more consistently I think I'm not quite fit to keep up with that."

Some of the change in pace, Coburn felt, was due to tactics and some due to just a crowd going over barriers, something she's not really used to from NCAA action. She said, "If you come to a gate and you have a crowd of people everyone has to slow down to get through the gate."

As a result, "Every 50 or 75 meters there is a hurdle and we'd jog up until the hurdle, almost stop and then hurdle it, and then sprint until the next hurdle. I do much better when it's just fast."

Up next for Coburn is one more steeple at the Diamond League meet in Stockholm, a week from Friday. Coburn said, "I'm hoping that race isn't tactical like this and I can chop a couple of more seconds off (my PR) and have a good last effort before a long fall without racing." Coburn is out of NCAA cross-country eligibility.

 Bridget Franek ended up last of the competitors who finished, but leaves as an Olympic finalist. She said the whole experience "gives her a lot of motivation" for next year, adding, "I'll get another chance then and I'll do better next time."

As for her race, Franek said, "I don't know exactly what happened. Like I said, the wheels just fell off with 5 laps to go."

When asked whether nerves played a role she said, "I think so. I don't like to admit it but I definitely think it comes into play."

Quick Take (QT) #1: Unofficially, here are the last four laps for Zaripova.
73-ish 4:23 to 5:37
72-73-ish 5:37 to 6:50
72-ish 6:50 to 8:02.
64-ish 8:02 to 9:06.

QT #2: Zaripova hasn't lost a steeple since August of 2010. While Zaripova's win streak dates to August of 2010, she's only run 6 steeples (ignoring prelims) during that time frame. Hopefully, since she's so lightly raced, she'll soon take a crack at the 8:58.91 world record that Galkina set in winning in Beijing four years ago.

QT #3: Just like last year at Worlds, Milcah Chemos came into the meet undefeated. Last year she got bronze, here she finished in the cruelest spot, fourth.

More: *MB: Women's Steeplechase Final?

Results Of Women's Steeplechase Final At 2012 London Olympic Games

Position Bib Athlete Country Mark .
1 2902 Yuliya Zaripova RUS 9:06.72 (PB)
2 3069 Habiba Ghribi TUN 9:08.37 (NR)
3 1699 Sofia Assefa ETH 9:09.84 .
4 2328 Milcah Chemos Cheywa KEN 9:09.88 .
5 1700 Hiwot Ayalew ETH 9:12.98 .
6 1707 Etenesh Diro ETH 9:19.89 (PB)
7 1952 Antje Möldner-Schmidt GER 9:21.78 (SB)
8 1945 Gesa Felicitas Krause GER 9:23.52 (PB)
9 3278 Emma Coburn USA 9:23.54 (PB)
10 2340 Mercy Wanjiku Njoroge KEN 9:26.73 .
11 2723 Clarisse Cruz POR 9:32.44 .
12 1646 Marta Domínguez ESP 9:36.45 .
13 2401 Polina Jelizarova LAT 9:38.56 .
14 3290 Bridget Franek USA 9:45.51 .
. 2858 Gulnara Galkina RUS DNF .
Intermediate Bib Athlete nat Mark
1,000m 2902 Yuliya Zaripova RUS 3:06.24
2,000m 2902 Yuliya Zaripova RUS 6:11.60

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