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Former C.U. Buff Jenny Simpson claimed an Olympic bronze medal in the women's 1500 meter final

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Posted at 10:45 PM, Aug 16, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-17 00:52:54-04

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil — Former Colorado star Jenny Simpson became the second Buff in two days to claim an Olympic bronze medal, putting on a terrific finishing kick over the last 200 meters Tuesday night to finish third in the 1,500-meter final.

Simpson, who finished in 4 minutes, 10.53 seconds, is the first American woman in history to earn an Olympic medal in the 1,500.

She thus joined teammate and training partner Emma Coburn on the podium. Monday morning, Coburn became the first American woman to earn a medal in the women's 3,000-meter steeplechase when she also claimed bronze in the event.

Simpson, who entered the bell lap of the race in sixth place, ran down two competitors on the final lap to claim her medal. Kenya's Faith Kipyegon won gold in 4:08.92 and Ethiopia's Genzebe Dibaba was second in 4:10.27.

Simpson started quickly in the race and stayed near the front of the pack for the first two laps of what was a slow-paced, tactical championship race. Dibaba then began to push the pace in the third lap, and while Simpson dropped to the middle of the pack, she kept her eye on the leaders. She began her kick midway through the final 400 meters and ran down two competitors, including Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands, to claim her first Olympic medal in three appearances at the Games.

Both Simpson and Coburn are still coached by CU coaches Mark Wetmore and Heather Burroughs. In her Monday performance, Coburn clocked an American record 9:07.63, breaking her old mark by more than three seconds.

"Jenny ran exactly as she planned," Wetmore said. "She just wanted to think like a predator. She ran the final 800 faster than any 800 race of her career. Heather and I are thoroughly proud to work with these two women."

Simpson and Coburn become the fifth and sixth varsity athletes in CU history to earn an Olympic medal, and the school's 11th medal overall. They joined previous varsity athletes Burdie Haldorson, Bob Jeangerard, Jimmie Heuga and Bill Toomey.

Simpson, one of the most decorated female middle-distance runners in U.S. history and one of the most accomplished runners in CU annals, was competing in her third Olympics. She was ninth in the steeplechase in Beijing in 2008 and advanced to the semifinals of the 1,500 in 2012 in London.

She also won the World Championships gold medal in the 1,500 in 2011 and was the silver medalist in the event in 2013. She was also the  2014 Diamond League champion in the 1,500 in  2014.

Her personal best of 3:57.22 is still the second-fastest in American history.