After a long journey often marked by disappointment and bad luck, at least on the Olympic stage, Jenny Simpson finally broke through in triumphant fashion last summer at the Rio games.
At the upcoming IAAF World Championships in London, Simpson hopes to help a fellow former Colorado Buffalo do the same at the international level.
A year after earning her first Olympic medal — a bronze in the 1,500-meter run that made Simpson the first American woman to medal in the event — Simpson will be teammates with Sara Vaughn in the 1,500 in London, an event that will hold its preliminary heats on the opening day of the World Championships on Aug. 4. Vaughn was able to use a late surge at the U.S. Championships in June to finish third and earn the third and final spot for the American team.
That means two of the three runners representing the U.S. in the 1,500-meters in London also will be representing the CU Buffaloes. And, like Simpson's journey toward her first Olympic medal, Vaughn has traveled a long road in reaching her first national team on an international stage at 31 years of age—and as the mother of three young children, the youngest of which is only about 2.
"I'm really excited for her," Simpson said. "It's always fun to see a fellow alum and a fellow Buffalo do well, but especially in your own event. And the complete different kind of story that she brings — the fact she's been doing this a long time, as long as I have, but her journey has been so different from mine. It gives me an appreciation for how you can live completely separate lives and still have these really exciting victories.
"Not even as a teammate, but as a fan of track and field I'm excited to see someone with a completely different journey reach a high of her career. It's fun to be on the track and experience that alongside her."
While Vaughn remains a longshot to reach the podium in London, Simpson is coming off her fourth victory in the 1,500-meters at the U.S. Championships and will be looking to add to her collection of World Championship medals. Simpson took first in the 1,500 in 2011 and added a silver medal in 2013.
Of course, this will be the first time Simpson toes the starting line at the World Championships as an Olympic medalist. If that creates extra pressure, it's the sort Simpson believes she revels in.
"Being a medalist in my day-to-day training and preparation, it's less on my mind than people might think," said Simpson, who still is coached by CU track and cross country guru Mark Wetmore. "I feel like when it's most relevant or when it's most on my mind is when I'm standing on the starting line. I really try to use it as encouragement and say to myself, 'I've been here, I've worked hard before when the odds were against me, and I prevailed.' I think that's how I use that experience to really benefit me. But through my daily training and daily life, I don't think it had a strong impact on how I train and prepare.
"There's no feeling in the world like crossing the line and knowing you're going to the podium. I'm so lucky I've been able to experience that in my career. So when you talk about pressure or expectations, there's the other side of the coin where it is so incredible it feels good to work hard and do it again."