Jenny Simpson: How to perform when it counts

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After winning gold and silver at the past two world 1500m finals, the USA’s Jenny Simpson, 27, is earning a reputation for being a master at performing when it really matters. Here are her top tips for getting it right at a major championships…

Planning makes perfect 

"I have really good coaches who know how to help me peak at the right time. You can work really hard all the year around but if you don’t have a formula to peak at the right time you end up working against yourself.

"This year we put a star next to the date of the World Championships final and worked back from there.

"This is not as easy at is sounds, and it’s hard to recognise how many sacrifices you have to make during the season in order to truly prioritise the World Championships. There‘s a lot of fun and exciting races early on in the season that I have to say no to, because I want to be really ready and make every race count leading up to the World Championships. 

"One example of a race I had to turn down this year was the Diamond League in Lausanne, which came right after the US Championships. I was already guaranteed a place in the US team for the World Championships [Jenny had a wildcard as the defending world champion] and I ran the 5000m at the US Champs.

"I thought running in Lausanne would have been good to get some Diamond League points. Instead, I decided that after the race it was important for me to regroup and restore myself from the 5km effort, and stay in the USA a little longer."

Mental strength 

"At our level of training, everyone is running many miles each week and doing tough track workouts. I think what helps me to manage the stress of the championships, is I say to myself on the morning of every World Championships: ‘you really deserve to be here’."

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Major medals: World 2011 1500m champion Simpson won silver in Moscow

"I try to stay positive. It is not like a Diamond League, nobody invited me here. I worked really hard to earn a spot on the US team. We all have doubts on the start-line, that is perfectly normal for an athlete, but the state of mind can lessen that doubt."

Hold your nerve

"I remember in Moscow, I was really surprised to be drawn in lane one in the final, right up against the rail. It’s a difficult position to run from because you either find yourself out in front, or everyone collapses in front of you and it is difficult to navigate. I found myself in front, but just kept saying to myself: ‘you’re going to be really hard to beat. Do what you are capable of doing’."

Think tactically

"In the past when I was a steeplechaser I didn’t really focus on tactics, just simply being really good over the hurdles. It was only when I switched to the 1500m in 2011 that I’ve become a lot more tactically aware.

"I think watching videos of different races and studying other people’s races helps you make better decisions when you are in the heat of a race. I don’t really make tactical notes but I have an idea where people generally like to be positioned at 600m, 500m or 400m to go.

"I can learn from athletes’ tactics and some of their mistakes. I remember going into the final of the World Championships and I knew [Abeba] Aregawi was so strong over the final 400m, so it was my plan to make an effort and be ahead of her at 400m, because my chances of running her down over the last 400m were much slimmer.

"Sitting down and trying to figure out race tactics can make the difference of maybe finishing one or two spots ahead."

Notes

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    Simpson’s advice can be applied to most any athletic endeavor.
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