September 10, 2018
After ending her 2018 competitive season at yesterday’s Fifth Avenue Mile, reigning steeplechase world champion Emma Coburn of the United States expressed doubt that steeplechase world record holder Beatrice Chepkoech of Kenya achieved her record cleanly. Chepkoech ran a 15-second personal best of 8:44.32 to smash the world record in Monaco in July.
When Coburn was asked by LetsRun.com whether she was surprised how far Chepkoech had taken the world record this year — her mark was an eight-second improvement on the previous record — and what fans should think of the record in the light of previous record holder, Ruth Jebet, testing positive for EPO, Coburn said, “I think it’s important to look at history and look at what happened with Ruth and I do think a woman can run 8:45, but I don’t think a woman can run 8:45 when for a whole season she runs 9 minutes and then runs 8:45. I don’t think that’s really possible. I think 9 minutes is still the holy grail of women’s steeplechase and I think that’s a time — that right under 9 minutes athletes can run clean, so hopefully there’s enough of us to get near that.”
Then when directly asked if she thought Chepkoech’s record was legitimate, Coburn said, “I shouldn’t comment because there is no proof to prove otherwise, but I think it’s important to look at trends and history of performances and where there’s big outliers we might need to pause.”
The steeplechase is an event that has been rocked by doping positives. Jebet, the 2016 Olympic champion who ran the previous world record of 8:52.78, tested positive for EPO earlier this year. Yuliya Zaripova, the 2012 Olympic champion, served a two-and-a-half-year ban for doping. Zaripova was stripped of her Olympic gold; Jebet has not been.
In June, LetsRun.com asked Coburn how she reacted when she heard about Jebet’s positive test.
“My reaction was duh,” Coburn said. “I think in 2014, she ran, the first time I really noticed her and remember her was at the Continental Cup. And I beat her there and I think the following year, her best was in the 9:20s. I’m trying to remember, but I don’t remember her stats fully (it was 9:21, though she ran 9:20 in 2014). And then the next year, she runs 8:52. [She also ran] the middle kilometer [of her 8:59 Olympic win in the] low-2:50s by herself in the heat of Rio. So I think just seeing that jump made a lot of people within the sport suspicious.”
When Coburn was asked what her comments on Chepkoech meant for the sport she said, “It means you have Courtney Frerichs, Emma Coburn, Hyvin Kiyeng, you have women that are consistently flirting with 9 minutes, that have been running that time for a few years and are in my opinion doing it the right way. I think there’s heroes in the event. I think we can continue to push the boundaries. Like I said, I think running under 8:50 is possible. I just think we can look at what happened with Ruth and maybe pause for a sec[ond] about it.”
Full video with Coburn’s comments below (set to start on Chepkoech part)
Beatrice Chepkoech’s 2018 outdoor season, according to Tilastopaja.eu:
|9 Apr||1500||4:08.29||1h2||CWG||Gold Coast|
|10 Apr||1500||4:03.09||PB (24)||2||CWG||Gold Coast|
|12 May||Steeple||9:07.27||WL SB||1||Diamond||Shanghai|
|26 May||1500||4:05.36||9||Pre||Eugene OR|
|23 Jun||5000||15:15.34A||SB (37)||3||NC||Nairobi|
|30 Jun||Steeple||8:59.36||WL PB||1||Meet Paris||Paris|
|20 Jul||Steeple||8:44.32||WL WR PB (1)||1||Herc||Monaco|
|9 Sep||Steeple||9:07.92||1||IAAF Continenta||Ostrava|
Coburn on her own season
Coburn also talked about her 2018 season which saw her place top four at four Diamond League steeples and win another US title. She said, “My season was very good. It wasn’t out of the park. It was my most consistent season. I didn’t have one race that was like a bomb. I didn’t have one race that I really sucked in, [I] ran 4 times under 9:10 in the steeple, I won another USAs. I ran really well here [at 5th Avenue] I thought. So overall it was a really good year, ending the season feeling healthy and not fatigued and not strung out. I feel good about it.”
The season also saw her lose her American record to Courtney Frerichs. Coburn beat Frerich’s three times this year, but in the one race she lost to Frerichs, Frerichs got Coburn’s American record. On losing the American record, Coburn said, “It makes me a little sad that I don’t have it. Records are never for ever. I knew that and hopefully I can get it back, but at this point in women’s steeplechase both in the US and internationally we have to break 9 minutes to win medals so I’m just shooting for that podium at Worlds next year and hopefully in the Olympics in 2020 and the time will come.”
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