Jenny Simpson, the ultimate racer, snags silver in wild finish (video)

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As Jenny Simpson rounded the final curve of a global 1500m final for the fifth time, she knew exactly what to do.

Ahead were three women who gapped her on the bell lap at the world championships in London on Monday night.

They were Brit Laura Muir and the leading duo of Kenyan Faith Kipyegon and Ethiopian-born Dutchwoman Sifan Hassan.

All three runners have faster personal bests than Simpson, who ranks No. 39 on the all-time women’s 1500m list.

As Simpson proved in 2011, 2013 and 2016, the rankings matter little when she is part of Olympic and world championships 1500m finals.

“I thought,” Simpson recalled going into the last straightaway, “no one’s going to believe I’m doing this again.”

In 2011, Simpson made the world championships team in the 1500m in her first full season focusing on that race.

A 1500m star she was not — ranking outside the world top 20 that season — but a racer? Definitely. Simpson lowered the American 3000m steeplechase record at the prior Olympics and world championships before moving to the 1500m.

And so at the 2011 Worlds, when the pre-race favorites fell off before the bell lap, it was Simpson who shifted all the way out to lane 3 and kept her form, moving from fourth to first.

After a disastrous, last-place 2012 Olympic semifinal, Simpson showed her mettle at the 2013 Worlds. She led nearly from the gun this time. Simpson was passed on the last lap by pre-race favorite Abeba Aregawi. It looked like Simpson would fall behind promising Kenyan Hellen Obiri on the final straight. But Simpson had properly rationed her energy and surged. She nearly caught Aregawi. Silver.

A runner stepped on Simpson at the 2015 Worlds, and she covered the last 600 meters with one shoe and a bloodying foot. 11th place.

Then in Rio, Simpson saw Ethiopian world-record holder Genzebe Dibaba go to the lead at the halfway point. Simpson chose not to tail her — others did — and faded to sixth place with 300 meters left. The patience paid off. Simpson couldn’t catch Kipyegon (the eventual surprise winner) or Dibaba, but she picked off three women, including Muir and Hassan. Bronze.

Coming into Monday night’s final in London, Simpson was already one of the most accomplished female runners in U.S. history. The only American woman with an Olympic 1500m medal. One of two (Mary Slaney) with a world 1500m title.

This field was loaded. The Olympic champion Kipyegon. The world-record holder Dibaba. Hassan, undefeated this year. Muir, the fastest woman of the last two years. And the wild card, Olympic 800m champion Caster Semenya.

Kipyegon and Hassan separated from the pack with 300 meters left. Muir initially chased them. Simpson did not.

“I covered every move that I could,” Muir said.

So there Simpson was, with 80 meters left and Muir, Hassan and Kipyegon between her and a fourth podium in five global finals.

She remembered one of her coaches, Heather Burroughs, telling her not to hesitate. She remembered watching the women’s 100m final on TV the night before. Countrywoman Tori Bowie took upset gold with a textbook finish herself, a well-timed lean. (Bowie and Simpson have similar stories switching events for success; Bowie was primarily a long jumper until 2014)

Simpson thinks. And she looks, beyond Muir, and assesses the two leaders.

“I can see how hard Faith [Kipyegon] and Hassan are racing each other, and I really believe I can get one of them if they’re working this hard this far out,” Simpson said. “It’s so weird to me that I can have all of those thoughts in those few, short seconds. But I just really believed I was going to be able to run at least one of them down.”

She finds an opening. Muir is out in lane 2 and slowing. For the first time she can think of, Simpson passes on the inside on a final sprint. As that happens, Hassan is cooked, unable to keep the pace with Kipyegon. The Dutchwoman flails to the far side of lane 1, opening up the rail. Simpson slips through, keeping her form.

As Kipyegon pumps her celebratory fist at the finish line, Simpson rushes in for silver, just .17 behind.

As this is all happening, Semenya put on her trademark sprint for bronze and ended up falling to the track. Muir fourth. Hassan fifth.

“I can talk about the race, but mostly it comes down to the last 100 meters,” Simpson said. “This is my 17th 1500m race at world championships [or Olympics], and with that comes 17 opportunities to do it the right way.”

Simpson became a 1500m runner six years ago. She has made every U.S. team for worlds and the Olympics and come away with four medals.

The success has come during an era of drug-related scrutiny in all running events. The 2012 Olympic final is now a mess of doping disqualifications. Aregawi tested positive last year for the controversial meldonium. Performance-enhancing substances were found in Dibaba’s coach’s hotel room last year.

“If I’m second in this race, you beat cheaters,” Simpson said. “Because there’s not zero cheaters in the race.”

The other medalists deserve acclaim. Kipyegon is just 23 and now an Olympic and world champion.

“My tactic was to run the last 300 meters, because I knew Semenya was fast in [the last] 100 meters,” she said.

Semenya raced a 1500m outside of Africa for the first time in six years at this meet. She still has the 800m left later this week, an event she hasn’t lost in almost two years.

Eight years ago, Semenya famously won the world 800m title at age 19 and a gender-testing controversy erupted. After these worlds, regulations may be imposed forcing some female athletes to again take hormone-suppressing medication. Semenya was asked about it.

“I have no time for nonsense, so medication, no medication, I’m an athlete,” she said. “I don’t have time for such things, you understand? For me, its their own decisions [the IAAF, Court of Arbitration for Sport].”

The South African had the closest view of Simpson’s move in the last 80 meters on Monday. And a pretty good one of Kipyegon, too.

Semenya, the most dominant female runner in the world today, was impressed.

“They move like rockets,” she said.

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Geraint Thomas attacks, takes Tour de France lead ahead of Chris Froome

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British Olympic track cycling champion Geraint Thomas grabbed the Tour de France lead, attacking with three and a half miles to win a summit finish on Stage 11 on Wednesday.

Thomas now leads a Team Sky one-two in the overall standings, 85 seconds ahead of four-time Tour winner Chris Froome, as the three-week Grand Tour passed the halfway mark.

“Froome is the [Team Sky] leader here, so there’s no pressure on me,” Thomas said Tuesday, according to Cyclingnews.com. “It’s a bonus for me to be up there, and hopefully I can be there for as long as possible.”

The Tour continues Thursday with stage 12 to Alpe d’Huez, live on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold (full broadcast schedule here).

The 109-mile stage features three beyond-category climbs — Col de la Madeleine, Croix-de-Fer and the iconic Alpe d’Huez finish after 21 switchbacks to close out the Tour’s three days in the Alps. The overall standings are sure to change.

Greg Van Avermaet, the Rio Olympic road race champion, went into stage 11 with a 2:22 lead, which he had tripled on the first mountain day Tuesday.

But Van Avermaet, who predicted he would lose the yellow jersey before stages Tuesday and Wednesday, cracked on the second of three major climbs Wednesday. He finished in a group 22 minutes after Thomas.

Van Avermaet is a super one-day racer but not a strong climber.

Thomas dons the yellow jersey for a second straight Tour. The 2008 and 2012 Olympic track cycling gold medalist won the opening stage in 2017 and wore the maillot jaune four days before Froome took over en route to his fourth title in Paris.

There was talk before and during this year’s Tour that Thomas could challenge Froome as Sky’s team leader, even though Froome has won the last three Grand Tours and is going for record-tying fifth Tour de France crown.

But Thomas and Sky have played that down.

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U.S. Olympic, USA Gymnastics leaders set for another Senate hearing

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Recently replaced U.S. Olympic Committee acting CEO Susanne Lyons, USA Gymnastics President and CEO Kerry Perry and Michigan State interim president John Engler are scheduled witnesses for a Senate subcommittee hearing next Tuesday on reforms following the Larry Nassar sexual-abuse crimes.

The hearing is titled, “Strengthening and Empowering U.S. Amateur Athletes: Moving Forward with Solutions” and will stream live at https://www.commerce.senate.gov/ on Tuesday at 2:30 p.m. ET.

“The hearing will focus on changes made by the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), USA Gymnastics (USAG), and Michigan State University (MSU) to protect Olympic and amateur athletes from abuse,” according to the subcommittee’s website. “It will examine recent reforms to provide safe environments for athletes and how these reforms are being implemented.”

The subcommittee held hearings April 18 and June 5 with testimonies from gymnasts and other athletes who were abused, former Michigan State president Lou Anna Simon and former senior vice president of USA Gymnastics Rhonda Faehn. Former USA Gymnastics CEO Steve Penny also attended the June 5 hearing but refused to answer questions.

Lyons and Perry were questioned at a House subcommittee hearing May 23.

The USOC last Thursday named Sarah Hirshland its new CEO, replacing Lyons, who had been in the role on an interim basis since Scott Blackmun resigned in February. Blackmun, who had been CEO since January 2010, left citing prostate cancer and the USOC’s need to immediately address the USA Gymnastics sexual-abuse scandal.

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