RIO DE JANEIRO — After contemplating the point of delineation between healthy and harmful nervousness, Jenny Simpson figured out a reasonable answer Sunday and used it in her race strategy in the semifinals of the 1,500 meters.
She decided to take the lead early to eliminate some of the worry in a race that would determine which 12 women would compete in the final Tuesday night.
"I was thinking about, what about nervousness tips you over the edge?" said Simpson, a Boulder resident and former Colorado Buffalo who is a former world champion in the 1,500. "I decided that what tips you over the edge is when nerves turn into worrying. I saw the pace of the first heat (of three) was a little slow, so I thought, 'I don't have to worry about the pace if I take (the lead).' Nobody ever wants to take it, so I thought, 'If I do it, I have a little bit of control, and I don't have to worry about it.' "
Simpson went to the front from the gun and held the lead until the bell lap when Ganesh Dibaba of Ethiopia burst past her to finish first in the heat. There was no worry in that either: Simpson finished fourth, and that got her into Tuesday's finals with ease. Sifan Hassan, a native of Ethiopia who runs for the Netherlands, and Laura Muir of Great Britain also passed Simpson.
"I think the best four on paper were in this (heat)," Simpson said. "When Dibaba, Hassan and Laura went by me, I thought: 'Those people are going to be in the top five (in the finals). If they are ahead or behind me, I don't have to race them tonight. I'm going to race them in two days.' It was a very thoughtful process for me to say, 'Let them race each other, let them get some of that out of their system, and hopefully I'll have something to match that in two days.' "
Today, fellow CU grad Emma Coburn will compete in the finals of the women's 3,000-meter steeplechase.