28 February, 2019

Coburn's Shanghai Shock

  • © Errol Anderson

Back in 2014, Emma Coburn sprang a big surprise with a breakthrough performance in the 3000m steeplechase in Shanghai, as she stuck to the pacemaker and smashed her PB.

These days, Emma Coburn is a world champion, Olympic bronze medallist and regular top three finisher in the women's 3000m steeplechase in the Diamond League. 

Yet back in 2014, the USATF star had just returned from a year of injury struggles, and was far from the favourite as she prepared to take on star-studded fields in the hunt for the Diamond Trophy. 

Coburn's first Diamond League appearance that year, though not only got her summer off to a flying start, it also announced her as a potential steeplechase superstar. 

Having requested an unusually fast time, several of her high quality competitors hung back in the race itself, but Coburn decided to go all guns blazing. Sticking to the pacemaker like a limpet, she set off on an extraordinary bit of front-running. 

Lap after lap, everyone watching (and indeed everyone chasing) expected her to lose ground and be swallowed up by the pack, but the American didn't relent. Coming into the home straight, she sill had a lead of 30-40 metres, and she cruised over the finish line to leave her more famous competitiors blushing. 

Her time was a PB-busting 9:19.81 and also a statement of intent at the highest level of track and field. 

She has since shaved another 17 seconds of her personal best, and picked up a handful of major gongs. But it was this remarkable performance in Shanghai which kickstarted Emma Coburn as a sparkling superstar.