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American Simpson springs 1,500 surprise for gold medal

Jennifer Barringer Simpson of the U.S. celebrates winning the women's 1500 metres final next to Hannah England of Britain in Daegu
Jennifer Barringer Simpson of the U.S. celebrates winning the women's 1500 metres final next to Hannah England of Britain in Daegu

By Nick Mulvenney

DAEGU, South Korea (Reuters) - Former steeplechaser Jenny Simpson summoned a sensational sprint finish to win a surprise gold medal in the women's 1,500 meters at the world championships on Thursday, taking the title back to the United States for the first time in 28 years.

The 25-year-old bided her time in what developed into a physical race and kicked off the final bend to overhaul Spain's Natalia Rodriguez and take victory in four minutes 05.40 seconds, the slowest winning time in the event at a world championships.

"I am supposed to say that I am not surprised -- all I can say is that a dream has come true," Simpson, who used to run under her maiden name Barringer, said. "Coming off the final bend, I thought I would be difficult to beat."

Hannah England followed Simpson home in 4.06.68 to win silver for Britain, while Rodriguez, who finished first at the last world championships in Berlin but was disqualified for tripping a rival, claimed bronze in 4.05.87.

Defending champion Maryam Jamal of Bahrain, who had set the pace early in the race, finished last after being boxed in and then tripped.

Simpson said her experience in running the steeplechase, where she still holds the U.S. record, had helped in a tactical race that was run at a slow pace until the last half lap.

"Standing on starting line, I was thinking about what this would mean for my life and my family," Simpson recalled.

"My little sister is serving in the army and I knew if I won they would play the national anthem.

"Coming down the last 100 meters, I was thinking of my little sister and thinking 'let's get that song played'."

Her triumph means the middle distance title is back in U.S. hands for the first time since Mary Decker Slaney won gold at the first world championships in 1983.

"It's great to bring the gold medal home to the U.S.," said Simpson. "The U.S. is becoming incredibly competitive in the 1,500. Making the team was very hard. There will be a big celebration tonight. I guess I will not sleep for the next few nights."

(Editing by John Mehaffey)