Jenny Simpson is approaching the IAAF World Championships, Beijing 2015 as one of the medal contenders in the 1500m. With the first round in this event set to get underway on the first day of the competition, Saturday 22 August, Simpson was beaming with confidence at the USA team press conference held at the Bird’s Nest stadium on Friday (21).
Having switched events from the 3000m steeplechase to the 1500m in 2010, Simpson won the World Championships on her first try at her new event, just one year later. In Moscow, two years ago, she finished a close second behind Sweden’s Abeba Aregawi.
Simpson’s track record in 2015 is impressive too: a North American indoor best in the two miles (9:18.35), two IAAF Diamond League wins and a national title. However, her last race before Beijing, the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Monaco, left Simpson with mixed feelings of optimism and frustration.
In Monaco, Simpson ran a season’s best and her second-fastest time ever 3:57.30 only to finish fourth, while Genzebe Dibaba set a world record of 3:50.07, dominating the field by almost seven seconds.
“Monaco is a great example of a situation when if someone beats you when you’re running a great race, you just need to respect them and move on to your next challenge,” said Simpson. “That race motivated me to work even harder in training, that’s why I’m coming here better prepared than I was in Monaco.”
Simpson also noted that she is rarely the favourite on paper, yet usually it doesn’t prevent her from getting to the top.
“I often race people who are better than me, but I find ways to be with them and, on some occasions, to beat them,” she said. “Nobody knows what my preparation was like, except for me. And the best thing you can do at the World Championships is to focus on the task you know you are able to carry out.”
Simpson’s forte is her proven ability to race through the qualification rounds of the major championships.
“One of the great equalisers is that starting line of the round one,” Simpson said. “Rounds are a different story, there are no pacers. Hopefully, if history repeats itself, they will serve to my favour and give me another opportunity to show my consistency and strength over the course of several days.”
Indeed, since finishing ninth in the steeplechase at the 2008 Olympics, Simpson has reached three World Championships finals. Simpson, who turns 29 on the day of the 1500m semi-finals in Beijing, admits that the key to doing well in preliminary rounds is mental preparation and focus, rather than a particular training regimen.
“I don’t train specifically to run on consecutive days. I train to be good every time I step on the track, whether it’s a Diamond League race or rounds of major championships,” she said. “It’s about learning to stay calm and handle the task in hand. When the challenge is here, I’m excited to rise to the occasion.”
Simpson’s affair with the 1500m started with an injury that forced her to step away from the steeplechase for a while, but the quick success in her new event convinced her to stick with it and she eventually fell in love with the distance.
She still ponders if she could run a sub-nine-minute steeplechase, with her personal best from 2009 being 9:12.50, and doesn’t rule out a potential return to tackling the barriers. But Simpson is sure that it won’t happen anytime soon.
“The women’s 1500m is a fine space in athletics to run really fast, and the women keep raising the bar every year,” she said. “Right now, it is a great event to be in.”
Elena Dyachkova for the IAAF