With a previous Olympic experience that ranged from disappointing to heartbreaking, capturing her first medal was bound to be an emotional moment for Jenny Simpson regardless of any additional circumstances.
But winning that medal in historic fashion alongside another University of Colorado track alum, Emma Coburn? That only added to the long-awaited achievement for Simpson, who became the first American woman to claim a medal in the 1,500-meter run last month in Rio when she won the bronze.
That milestone also was achieved by Coburn one day earlier when she won bronze in the 3,000-meter steeplechase. Fittingly, both former Buffaloes All-Americans will return to campus to show off their new jewelry over the first weekend of October.
Although details have yet to be finalized, Simpson and Coburn will be guests of honor at the cross country team's annual Rocky Mountain Shootout on Oct. 1. The pair also is expected to make an appearance at that day's football game against Oregon State at Folsom Field.
"I will not have been home very long by the Shootout gets underway," Simpson said. "Emma and I will both be there to kind of share the medal and share the experience with everyone."
Simpson finished ninth in the steeplechase at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and admittedly didn't run her best in London in 2012 when she failed to reach the finals in the 1,500-meter run. Simpson played to her strengths in Rio, pacing herself through the first half of the race while the leaders surged ahead before quickly closing the gap over the final 800 meters.
She admitted watching her teammate and good friend Coburn win bronze in a similarly strategic race provided extra inspiration.
"The day before my final was Emma's race, so waking up in the morning and knowing I had a day and a half before I would be racing and watching her really have the pinnacle moment in her career really inspired me and made me feel like I had to get this done as well," Simpson said. "There was certainly a lot of camaraderie, a lot of shared hope and then shared execution in both of our races.
"Walking side-by-side with her the last few seasons and then arriving at this place where we both won bronze, we both were the first women in our events (to medal), it just seemed like the perfect ending, or the perfect stop along the way in Rio, to this really fun adventure we were on together."
Simpson didn't take any time off following her historic performance in Rio, immediately traveling to Europe to complete the Diamond League season with competitions in Paris and Zurich. Last week she won the New Balance 5th Avenue Mile for the fifth time in six years less than 24 hours after arriving in New York City from Europe. Simpson's time of 4 minutes, 18.4 seconds was the event's fastest winning time since 1990.
Simpson said she will enjoy the short respite that is the offseason for elite track athletes before setting her sights on next year's World Championships — which will be held in the same stadium in London where she experienced Olympic heartbreak four years ago.
"I definitely want to go another four years," Simpson said. "Almost all athletes in my position, with the Olympics being the pinnacle of your sport, you kind of think of your career in four-year cycles. I definitely want to go another cycle for sure, and I think I can be as good or better in another four years."