There are some athletes who you can count on in the clutch.
In basketball, you want the ball in Michael Jordan’s hands for the last shot. In football, no man can lead a final drive like Tom Brady.
With her silver medal on Monday at the IAAF World Championships, you can add Jenny Simpson to that list.
No American runner has shown such a consistent championship pedigree:
2011 World Championships: Gold
2013 World Championships: Silver
2016 Olympics: Bronze
2017 World Championships: Silver
But it’s not just what order Simpson finishes in these championship races; it’s the manner in which she does it — with wise tactics and a killer instinct.
After a pedestrian early pace, Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands, the world leader and one of the pre-race favorites, surged to the lead with 600 meters to run. Defending Olympic champion Faith Kipyegon immediately moved to follow Hassan, as did Simpson and Britain’s Laura Muir.
As Hassan and Kipyegon started into a near-sprint on the backstretch of the final lap, Simpson allowed a gap to form between her and the two leaders, sensing the pace wasn’t sustainable to get to the finish line.
Into the final straight, Muir had passed Simpson into third but was clearly fading, as was Hassan after her suicidal early move.
That’s when Simpson’s tactical brilliance paid off. As her rivals were coming back to her, Simpson, because she laid off the pace earlier in the lap, had enough left in the tank to grind her way past Muir and Hassan in second place while holding off a surging Caster Semenya. Simpson even got close to catching Kipyegon, who won by just 0.17 seconds.
Dumb critics can say Simpson only benefited from the tactical errors of others, namely Hassan for making too hard of a move too early and Muir for going with a surge she may not have been ready to sustain. But that’s what racing is about — making split-second decisions to adjust based on how you’re feeling. Simpson knew her own fitness well enough to make the judgement that had she gone with Hassan’s hard move, she would not have had enough left to kick like she did over the final 100 meters.
And honestly, why should Jenny Simpson let Twitter trolls weigh her down? She’s got too many medals around her neck already doing that.