RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — As Jenny Simpson took an extra lap around the blue track Tuesday night, Stars and Stripes in tow, and celebrated becoming the first U.S. woman to medal in the Olympic 1,500 meters, she thought back to a moment of disappointment.
At the 2015 world championships in Beijing, Simpson lost a shoe after getting stepped on and was forced to complete her event with her left foot bare. She ended up 11th, a far cry from her 2011 world title and 2013 runner-up finish.
Now she has her Olympic bronze, finishing third at Olympic Stadium in 4 minutes, 10.53 seconds, behind Faith Kipyegon of Kenya and world-record holder Genzebe Dibaba of Ethiopia.
“Exactly a year ago, I was on the side of the track, picking up my shoe, and now I’m here with an American flag,” said Simpson, a 29-year-old from Boulder, Colorado. “That’s always going to be a real special memory for me.”
Kipyegon took control with about 200 meters left, and only Dibaba had any sort of chance of catching the gold medalist.
Simpson emerged from the next group, edging another American, Shannon Rowbury, who wound up in fourth, about a half-second back.
“I love feeling that stress on the last lap,” Simpson said. “I was one of the crowd who could maybe get third, so I’m really happy.”
She was rather self-effacing about her post-run reaction, saying she had “ugly cried.”
But what was really significant, of course, was doing something that no woman from the United States had before in the middle-distance race.
“I want to be someone that this country can be real proud to cheer for. I didn’t decide to want to be that person this week or this year. I decided I wanted to be that person eight or 10 years ago. It’s been a long ride of highs and lows,” Simpson said.
“Hopefully,” she added, “every American watching my race tonight — I want them to think that they can take a small piece of ownership in this medal.”
Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.