The Olympics ended less than a week ago, but Rio rematches won’t be the only theme for Saturday’s IAAF Diamond League meeting in Paris on Saturday (27).
Jenny Simpson and Emma Coburn, Olympic bronze medallists in the 1500m and the 3000m steeplechase respectively, are out chasing fast times, too.
The two US training partners had travelled to Paris right after their races last week in order to beat the jet-lag, train and enjoy some recovery ahead of Saturday’s event.
“We came here straight from Rio – on the 19th – so we’ve been here for about a week now, just training,” said Coburn at the pre-event press conference in Paris. “We spent a long time in Rio, so to be able to come out of the craziness of the Olympics and come over here and been able to get ready for the race has been really enjoyable.”
“It was important to both of us that we got here with enough time,” adds Simpson, who celebrated her 30th birthday in the French capital earlier this week.
Simpson holds special memories of the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Paris from two years ago, when she finished second to Sifan Hassan and recorded a personal best of 3:57.22 – her fastest time to this day.
The 2011 world champion admits that having the energy to keep going after a major championships can be challenging, but is hopeful her experience will give her the edge over her competitors.
“I’ve been fortunate to have been in this sport for such a long time and I know what it takes to come back and put out a really great performance,” said Simpson. “I’ve done that before after I’ve won a medal and I definitely plan to do that again here.”
Sub-four the aim for Simpson
With the pace plan set for 64.00 at 400m, 2:08 at 800m and 2:40 at 1000m, Simpson says a sub-four-minute performance is her main aim come Saturday.
“I am very excited the pace is set for a good sub-four effort,” she said. “This is the first time I think in a few years that I haven’t gone under four minutes yet, so that’s certainly a goal of mine here.”
Simpson isn’t the only one chasing times in Paris.
In May, Emma Coburn broke the North American 3000m steeplechase record at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Eugene. Last week, she bettered her own record to 9:07.63 during her bronze medal-winning run in Rio.
She is up against Olympic champion Ruth Jebet, who already ruled out the possibility of a world record attempt, having missed the mark by the narrowest of margins twice this season. Olympic silver medallist and world champion Hyvin Kiyeng will be another force to be reckoned with, but Coburn is confident.
“I am racing here in Paris and then next week in Zurich and I want to try in both races to beat some of the women who beat me in Rio and try to better my personal best that I set in Rio,” said Coburn.
Unlike Simpson, who already has two World Championship medals to her name, the Olympic bronze she took in Brazil last week was Coburn’s first global medal. It helped the 25-year-old stay motivated for the remainder of the season.
“For me it just makes it all a little bit better, a little happier,” she says. “I am still just as focused and just as motivated as I was before Rio.”
Feeding off each other’s strengths
Despite competing in different events, the pair heavily rely on each other – not only in training.
“Because our training is so similar, we often do well at the same time, which has been really fun over the years,” explains Simpson.
“But certainly when something goes wrong for one person, it definitely helps to keep the lows a little bit higher and when one of us has a really great day to feed of that energy. That’s really important.
“Also, we don’t get lonely on the road when we’re travelling together and I think that’s really helpful. This life, going from meet to meet, the weeks in between can get lonely when you’re all by yourself.”
The benefits of being surrounded by teammates and feeding off each other’s successes became visible in Rio with the US team winning an impressive six medals in middle-distance events.
In Coburn’s case, however, it wasn’t just seeing fellow steeplechaser Evan Jager finish second in the same event, but also had a more practical aspect to it. The silver medallist in the men’s race – famous for his long blonde locks – lent Coburn his hair tie minutes before her race because she had misplaced hers.
“Wearing Evan’s hair tie was really helpful because running with this down,” she says pointing at her hair,” would have been very annoying.”
Jager broke the North American steeplechase record in Paris last summer, despite taking a fall at the last barrier. His race left a lasting impression on Coburn.
“I think Evan has really done a remarkable job in the steeplechase and to be a silver medallist against the men he is up against is really an incredible thing.
“So if I can emulate his run from [this meeting] last year – minus that last barrier – tomorrow, I’ll be really happy.”
Michelle Sammet for the IAAF