My favorite medalists from Rio, by Alex Mill

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Alex Mill wrote for RunBlogRun last year and also over the past couple of years. This year, Alex has a real job, so his writing is a bit more intermittent for RunBlogRun. But, as I woke up this Sunday morning, an email appeared from Alex Mill, with his favorite non-gold medalists in Rio. I like his list!

Simpson-HassanLastTurn-RioOlyG16.jpgJenny Simpson going by Sifan Hassan, Rio 1500 meters, photo by PhotoRun.net

While the Olympic Champions rightly get the majority of the plaudits when it comes to media coverage and public attention, it's worth appreciating just how much even gaining a medal of any colour can mean to the other athletes involved.

Sure, there are a few wishing they had won gold instead, but for many, this month's achievements have signified a first global breakthrough that could itself be converted into an Olympic title one day.
For America especially, this has been a case of the 'kids coming good' as years of middle distance (Especially but not exclusively) progression culminated in the greatest day of their career just a year after the same amount of promise they left unconverted in Beijing.
Though it would take far too long to talk about all the key performances of the games, below I have tried to pick out some of my favourite minor medallists from Rio 2016.
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Jenny Simpson 1500m bronze
A titan of an athlete, for so long now Simpson has starred in the distant landscape without always getting the credit she deserves. Already world gold and silver medallist, Simpson came into the games with a bit still to prove at Olympic level. Four years ago she was left heartbroken as she narrowly missed out on making the final of the women's 1500m just a year after becoming world champion, an Olympic cycle later and her heart was well and truly mended as she clawed her way past her rivals in the home strait and to an Olympic bronze medal. The first ever by an American women in that event. Fittingly for Simpson, she out-sprinted long-time rival and American record-holder Shannon Rowbury to take the medal.
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Emma Coburn 3000m Steeple bronze
Ever since breaking the American record for the first time in 2014 Coburn has threatened to make the podium at major championships and here she finally did it. After the pain of a missed opportunity in Beijing and a string of injury issues since then, Coburn, who was seemingly back to full fitness, made sure she got the medal she deserves. Staying consistent as her rivals flew off in the opening stages, Coburn clawed back her Kenyan opponent Beatrice Chepkoech and went for broke. The fact that she so nearly took the scalp of Hyvin Kiyeng and with it the Olympic silver just shows how much she still has in the tank in the coming years.
As was the case with her Colorado training partner Simpson, the medal was the first ever won by an American female in the event. She may be one that can eventually hope for gold.
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Sophie Hitchon Hammer bronze
There's nothing better than a surprise medal and that is exactly what Hitchon got in Rio. The hammer throwing Brit came into the competition ranked outside the world's top-five, but that didn't matter as she produced some last round grit to produce a British record throw and an Olympic bronze medal. Having overachieved in Beijing last year where she finished 4th, Hitchon amazingly went one better in Brazil in spite of her only other senior global medal being Commonwealth bronze.
At 25 years old she now has the potential to push on and become one of the event's most consistent performers. Behind Anita Wlodarczyk of course.
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Evan Jäger 3000m Steeple silver
Blond hair swishing, sunglasses fixed on, gaze only facing forward. Watching Evan Jäger in motion can be pure poetry and perfection. This was especially the case in Rio. Winning his first major medal here, Jäger produced the run of his life to match-up to the performances of promise that have come in this four year Olympic cycle. Easily the most consistent runner in the field aside from Conselus Kipruto, Jäger matched up to his predicted ranking by running a fine even race as Kipruto went in search of a WR (He only gained an Olympic record). Breaking the likes of Ezekiel Kemboi and Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad on the biggest stage was huge for him. After gaining America's first medal in the event for 32 years, Jäger may now be capable of becoming a world champion and Olympic champion.
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Nick Willis 1500m bronze
One of the most frank and well respected athletes on the tour, Willis' gracious response to winning another Olympic medal eight years on from his first, was one of the best we saw all games. Though he was obviously delighted for himself, Willis was the first to go over to Matt Centrowitz and congratulate the American on his shock gold. Seeming genuinely delighted for his rival. After suffering injury issues in the build-up to London 2012, Willis was rewarded here for consistency and improvement.
The New Zealander may not always be considered a favourite but you always know he in with a chance if it's left to a sprint finish, and that was the case in Rio as the field suddenly turned on the speed having plodded through the rest of the race.
At 33, his chances of making it to another games and in turn a chance to add gold to bronze and silver medals, look slim, nevertheless I'm still expecting big things of the 3:29 man for at least another couple of years.

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