5. Jenny Simpson Wins Gold

U.S. runner surprises with world 1,500-meter title

Jenny Simpson wins gold at the 2011 World Championships

Jenny Simpson wins gold at the 2011 World Championships     Photo: Victah Sailor/Photorun.net

How important was Jenny Simpson’s world title in the 1,500 meters at the World Championships in September? No U.S. woman had won gold in any major global championship—in any distance event—since 1984. Which means, very.

To make the story even sweeter, Simpson spent most of 2010 laid up with a stress fracture. She barely qualified for the U.S. team to Daegu and wasn’t expected to be the top American finisher in the 1,500 final, not to mention the outright winner. But the race started slow and finished fast, a perfect scenario for her strong kick, and favorite Morgan Uceny tangled with Kenya's Helen Obiri just as the action heated up on the last lap. As a pack of six women hit the final turn, a door opened for Simpson to run wide and stay out of trouble clear to the finish. Simpson would later recount her own astonishment: “I'm coming down the stretch thinking, 'How did I get here?'"

Add in 21-year-old Matthew Centrowitz’s equally surprising bronze medal in the men’s 1,500, and on the eve of the London Olympics, U.S. runners are suddenly among the best in the world in one of track and field’s marquee events. 

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