This is our eighth COROS Athletes Watch, and the focus is on US athlete Emma Coburn. Emma Coburn is a ten-time U.S. steeple chase champion. In 2016, Emma won a bronze Olympic medal in the steeplechase, the first American woman to do such a feat. In London 2017, Emma Coburn surprised many by leading Courtney Frerich to a 1, 2 for the US, with Emma taking gold and Courtney taking silver in the steeplechase. Emma followed 2017 up with silver at the Doha 2019 World Champs.
She had a rough time in Tokyo 2020 and came back in 2022, taking the US championships. Eugene did not go as she had hoped for, and this is how she is re-focusing on the future.
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Emma Coburn looks ahead to the future after missing out on a medal in Eugene
Updated August 23, 2022
If you’re going to pick a crazy event like steeplechase, you can’t get rattled too easily. Nerves are a recipe for an actual disaster. But for a runner like Emma Coburn, it is the complete opposite.
However, it takes more than that for you to win a race, especially at a global championship, one which the American will later come to acknowledge after she finished eighth in 9:16.49 in the final of the women’s steeplechase at the world championships in Eugene.
“I’m disappointed. I thought I was better than this, but apparently, I am in 9:15 shape. It was a great race in terms of atmosphere, the other athletes in the race, and the splits they ran. It’s a huge missed opportunity, and I really felt that I was ready for it.” Coburn said after her race.
In an event like the steeplechase, all you can do is play the odds. Coburn did and took a calculated risk, too. She was in great shape and took a risk of going for a medal. It didn’t work in this race. It sucks, but that is all you can do. Maybe if she had run at a 3:03 pace, the outcome would have been different.
Coburn is the most dominant steeplechaser this country has ever seen. She’s a ten-time national champion, winning every year since 2011 (except 2013, when she didn’t compete). She won the 2012 U.S. Track & Field Olympic Trials at 21 years old, making her the youngest individual runner on Team USA at the London Olympics, where she finished eighth in the 3,000-meter steeplechase in 9:23.54.
Four years later, at the 2016 Rio Olympics, she set an American record (9:07.63) to win a bronze, becoming the first American woman to win an Olympic medal in the event. She went on to win the 2017 world championships (9:02.58), setting another national record (since taken by Courtney Frerichs in 9:00.85) and again making history—the first U.S. woman to win that title. And in June, after a year of waiting, Coburn won the women’s 3,000-meter steeplechase at the U.S. Olympic Track & Field Trials in a new Trials record of 9:09.41.
About a month ago, Coburn ran away from the field, including 2020 Olympic silver medalist Courtney Frerichs (who finished 6that the world championships), for her tenth 3,000m steeplechase U.S. National title with a time of 9:10.63. There was a feeling that she was going to produce something special in the world.
However, on race day, her execution was found wanting. “ There was a slight gap at 2000m with myself and the front runners, and a lot changed from 2000m to 2400m, but I still thought I could fight for a Personal Best or probably a fourth or fifth place, but things happened so fast.”
The 3,000-meter steeplechase may be the most peculiar, if not the hardest, distance running race out there. It’s an intense compromise of strength, speed, and endurance that entails running nearly two miles at a furiously fast pace while negotiating 35 barriers—seven of them in front of a daunting water pit.
At the Olympics in Tokyo, Coburn was primed for another trip to the podium in the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the 2020 games has taken bronze at the 2016 Olympics and won Gold at the 2017 World Championships.
Unfortunately, it didn’t play out as hoped as Coburn struggled at the most recent Olympic Games to finish 14th and was eventually disqualified after a video review for stepping off the track. Following the Olympics, Coburn realized it was time for a break.
“After the debacle in Tokyo, my team and I rearranged my training to be a lot more conservative and have a lot of high volumes all year. So, this year, I felt a lot in great shape, so I expected more from these championships.
There are a lot of lessons to be learned after this race. The good thing is worlds are next year again, and Coburn has a chance to right the wrongs from this year.
Next up, following the World Championships, Coburn will head to Europe in August for a few more Diamond League races concluding with the Diamond League Championships in Zurich, Switzerland, on September 9.
At this point, all of her focus will be entirely on the 6th Annual Elk Run 5k set for Saturday, September 24, right there in Crested Butte. The race will have several elite runners on hand for their race as well as the high school race, but the bread and butter are every days, or once a week, or once a year participants.
Emma Coburn is sponsored by New Balance and COROS.
Update: On July 20, 2022, Emma Coburn went for a medal and, in the heat, went from 4th-5th to finish in 8th place in 9:16.49. Emma was disappointed but put her focus on the Monaco DL, where she led most of the way, finishing at 9:07.93, her best time of the year. We hope to see her at the final Diamond League meetings of 2022. We know we will see Emma Coburn next year in Budapest, because that is what WC gold medalists do.
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