During the summer of 2007, former University of Colorado standout and two-time Olympian Kara Goucher earned her first medal at an IAAF World Track & Field Championship, placing third in the 10,000-meter run.
Not only was it her first medal, but she became the first American woman to medal in the event, paving the way for other Americans, and coincidentally Buffs, like Jenny Simpson and Emma Coburn, who have medaled in the 1,500-meter run and 3,000-meter steeplechase, respectively.
Goucher finished her race in 32 minutes, 2.05 seconds. Ethiopia’s Tirunesh Dibaba, who was the defending world champion at the time, won in 31:55.41, while Turkey’s Elvan Abeylegesse took silver in 31:59.40.
Eight years later in 2015, Goucher found out her 2007 medal was going to be upgraded to silver as Abeylegesse tested positive for steroids, disqualifying her for the podium. Goucher was shocked when she heard the news.
“There had been a lot of suspicion around her, but so much time had gone by; I figured we’d never know,” she said. “It was confusing at first because it made me look back at a race that I remembered so fondly and question what really happened that day. Had I been second in the world, with only one person better than me, maybe I would have believed I could win, instead of feeling so lucky that I had been third. There was a lot of emotion, but in the end, I felt grateful that they retested our stored samples and that they were able to give the proper results to us athletes.”
The IAAF started inviting athletes to world championships to retroactively receive their medals. Goucher participated in a medal ceremony at the 2017 World Championships in London, which also saw Great Britain’s Jo Pavey upgraded to the bronze medal. Unfortunately the medals were not actually given to the athletes since the ceremony had been put together so quickly, which meant Goucher and Pavey had to wait even longer to receive the medals they earned in 2007.
“When I went to London in 2017, I assumed I’d be given a medal then,” Goucher said. “I even brought my bronze medal thinking I’d have to turn it in. After the ceremony, they told us that they had put the ceremony together so quickly that they hadn’t had a chance to make the medals yet, but that we’d get them in the next few months or so. I’m not sure why it took two and a half years.”
Her day finally came last week when a surprise package came in the mail.
“I didn’t know that the medal was coming,” Goucher said. “Friday morning flowers were delivered to my home from USATF, our governing body. There was a note that said, ‘Sorry this took so long. I told my husband Adam, ‘I think my medal is coming today!’.”
Later that afternoon, the medal arrived just before Goucher was about to go on a little run. She was not ready to open it and Adam said they could do a little ceremony after her run.