RIO DE JANEIROCopyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko
Emma Coburn was looking to go run an 800.
Good thing her father had other plans, because she's now an Olympic medalist.
So here's the twist of fate that turned Coburn from a middle-distance runner into a steeplechase specialist: A 700-mile round trip ride to a track meet in New Mexico, and she picks up the story from there.
"I was at a meet out of state the summer between my junior and senior year and I was going to run an 800 and I viewed myself as a miler," Coburn said Monday. "We were driving all the way from Crested Butte, Colorado to Albuquerque, and my dad thought that was too far of a drive to do two laps (around the track). So we looked at the schedule and saw that the steeplechase was available."
In hindsight, that was a brilliant move.
Coburn's bronze in the women's steeplechase at the Rio Games on Monday was the first Olympic medal ever won by an American woman in the event. To find a medal on the men's side in the steeplechase, go back to 1984 when Brian Diemer got bronze.
Coburn's time of 9 minutes, 7.63 seconds was a new American record.
"I knew to have a chance to medal the race had to go at a pretty fast pace," Coburn said. "So when the eventual winner, Ruth Jebet took the lead I was relieved because I was hoping that's how the race would play out. I was hoping she would lead and push the pace."
Able to use the pace to her advantage and eventually reel in third place, the race worked out as Coburn wanted _ just as that drive to Albuquerque worked out the way her dad wanted a decade or so ago.