Like Bill Belichick, Emma Coburn is focused ahead on her next race, not looking back hampered by distractions

By Chris Lotsbom, @ChrisLotsbom
(c) 2015 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

BOSTON (06-Feb) — At first glance, American Olympian Emma Coburn and New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick might not seem to have too much in common. Yet at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix press conference here today, the 24-year-old Coburn answered questions with the same eyes-forward attitude as Belichick, perhaps the greatest American football coach in history. Coburn was laser focused on the competition ahead, as she’ll take to the track for 2000m on Saturday.

While red, white, and blue confetti dotted the snow and road just outside the press conference –remnants of Belichick and the Patriots’ fourth Super Bowl victory parade on Tuesday– Coburn possessed the same attitude that Belichick preached all season long: focus on the game ahead, and ignore any distractions that arise away from the field of play.

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This week, USA Track & Field announced that the national governing body would not recognize Coburn’s 9:11.42 3000m steeplechase performance from last year’s Glasgow Grand Prix meet in Scotland as an American record. Because Coburn did not get drug tested at the event, her time could not officially be ratified by USATF.

On the podium today, the first question posed to Coburn was about USATF’s decision. With class, Coburn answered affirmatively: she would not speak of the decision today, and only wanted to focus on this weekend’s competition.

“I’m here to race the 2-K as fast as I possibly can,” she began. “I understand it’s your job to ask me these questions, and I hope you guys understand that it’s my job to focus this week on the task at hand, to run the 2000 meters as fast as I can. I am going to respectively decline to comment on that. I have said what I wanted to say on social media, and I might open up more discussion in the coming weeks after this race, but I am really just trying to focus on the race tomorrow and get excited for that.”

Less than 24 hours prior, Coburn posted the following on Facebook:

The splash page and Coburn's pb sill exist  but the time isn't the AR.

The splash page and Coburn’s pb sill exist but the time isn’t the AR.

“My team and I are incredibly disappointed that my time in Glasgow won’t be ratified as the American Record. It’s an unfortunate situation. I missed a procedural step that my team and I were unaware of and the record wasn’t ratified. This isn’t the end of the world though; New Balance stands by me and recognizes the performance as an American Record. They have honored the bonus when they didn’t have to. I’m so lucky to be part of such a class organization. The time I ran in Glasgow still stands, that part doesn’t change. I am the fastest American woman to have raced the 3000m steeplechase. My focus now is on bettering my time this upcoming season and chasing global medals. Mistakes will be made along the way but I’m not dwelling on the past. Time to race!”

More than 1,100 people liked the status, leaving nearly 80 comments of support for the University of Colorado alum.

“I’ve felt a lot of support over the last 24 hours from the track community, and I’m just excited to race well here and get back to training and prove that I’ve still got it and can go faster,” Coburn said.

Turning her focus to the 2000m, where she’ll face the likes of Sally Kipyego, Dawit Seyaum, Heidi See (formerly Heidi Gregson), Melissa Salerno and Lauren Wallace, Coburn is hoping to finish faster than she did in 2014. Last year, Coburn timed 5:47.20 for second place behind fellow New Balance athlete Kim Conley.

“I’m up against some pretty stiff competition,” she said. “[I want to] have a lot more of an aggressive race. I kind of just dumped out a year ago and I got a decent time. But I definitely want to be more aggressive.”

While she doesn’t have a specific time or place goal for tomorrow, Coburn wants to make the best of her only indoor race of the season. After tomorrow she’ll turn her attention to the outdoor oval.

“I want to give it everything I have and race as aggressively as I can,” she said. “I’m definitely motivated.”

While it’s only February, Coburn’s eyes are on the IAAF World Championships in Beijing this summer. While her mainstay will remain the steeplechase, Coburn hopes to dabble in the 1500m.

“The focus is on Beijing and I have to qualify at the USA Championships still. It’s a game trying to figure out how to balance championship races with steeplechasing with developing other skills in other events. I’m hoping to get to do some 1500m’s,” she said.

Tomorrow will be the starting point for Coburn’s second year as a professional runner, and she’s hoping to make it her best year yet. It will be the first time she’s laced up her New Balance spikes since winning the 3000m steeplechase at the IAAF Continental Cup in Morocco last September.

“This year I’m definitely as fit, if not more fit, than I was a year ago. I’m just really excited to be more aggressive than a year ago,” she said.

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