Coburn places 9th in the Olympic steeplechase finals

Published: Aug. 6, 2012

CU Athletics news release

LONDON— University of Colorado senior Emma Coburn raced to a top-nine finish in the finals of the 3,000-meter steeplechase on Monday night at the Olympic Summer Games.

Coburn recorded a personal best in the race, clocking a time of nine minutes, 23.54 seconds, two seconds faster than her previous best. She was the top U.S. finisher, crossing the line in front of U.S. teammate Bridget Franek, who took 14th in 9:45.51. Russia’s Yuliya Zaripova won the gold medal in 9:06.72 and was closely followed by Tunisia’s Habiba Ghribi (9:08.37), who took silver, and Ethiopia’s Sofia Assefa, who won the bronze in 9:09.84.

“Overall I am happy,” Coburn said. “A personal record and finishing ninth in the Olympics is something I’m proud of, and I hope to use this and my experiences in the future to prepare myself to race these women and hopefully do better against them in the future, finish a little higher up.”

The Crested Butte, Colo. native ran a smart race after leading the majority of her preliminary race on Saturday. She tucked in and stayed with the lead pack until the top group pulled away from the field. Coburn was in eighth near the end of the race and at the finish she was just nipped by Germany’s Gesa Felicitas Krause (9:23.52).

“This was another very sound and mature race for Emma,” CU coach Mark Wetmore said. “I'm not sure if this is correct, but I heard she was the youngest member of the U.S. track team. So, to run her fastest time ever, and one of the fastest U.S. times ever, in the middle of the pressure, excitement, and distractions of this meet, is a testimony to her character.

“She exceeded all of our goals for the year. We are enormously proud of her.”

The ninth-place finish is the best finish of the games for a Buff this Olympiad and ties the best finish by a Buff in the last two Olympic Games.  Jenny (Barringer) Simpson placed ninth in the steeplechase in 2008 and raced to a similar time of 9:22.26. Two other Buffs, Kara Goucher (5,000-meters) and Dathan Ritzenhein (marathon) also placed ninth in their events in 2008.

Coburn’s Olympic finish is three spots better than what she finished at the 2011 IAAF World Championships almost one year ago when she took 12th.

Simpson, who has switched gears from the steeplechase to the 1,500, ran in the prelims of the 1,500 during the morning session and just barely advanced to the semifinals on Wednesday, taking the sixth and final automatic qualifying spot in the second section (4:13.81).

She found herself in the back of the pack and fought her way up from a 10th-place position heading into the bell lap.  Simpson started to surge as the lead pack went around the final turn but it wasn’t until the final 100 meters when she started to pick off some runners in front of her. In the final meters, she was able to just nip Russia’s Yekaterina Martynova for the final qualifying spot. Martynova finished 25th overall (seventh in the heat) and missed advancing to the next round with a time of 4:13.86, .05 seconds behind Simpson.

“If people want to see my miracle kick that was definitely a miracle today,” Simpson said. “I ran the slowest race to make it in.  At this point, what’s done is done, I have to move on.  It was really physical up front.  With about 200 meters to go I realized I needed to do something so I put my head down and didn’t look up until 5 meters to the line.  I think it’s the first time in my life I’ve leaned at the line.”

The semis for the 1,500 are on Wednesday at 12:45 p.m. MT (7:45 p.m. in London).