When Jenny Simpson crossed the finish line at the IAAF Track & Field World Championships last week in Daegu, South Korea, no one looked more surprised than the 25-year-old track star. Simpson, who holds the American record in the steeplechase, had blown past expectations to take the gold medal in the women’s 1,500-meter race on Sept. 1. In the process, she became the first American-born woman to take gold in a middle-distance race at a world championship since 1983. Following her win, on a conference call with reporters set up by her sponsor, New Balance, Simpson discussed her win, her Olympic plans and what she’s going to do in the off-season.
How does this win affect your thinking about the 2012 Olympic Games?
JS: What this world championship changes for me is that winning a medal is no longer just this figurative thing I’m hoping to one day accomplish. Going into London, I have so much more faith and so much more belief that it’s possible, and that I belong [in] training with a demeanor to medal.
Running as a sport is more popular than ever, but track and field doesn’t have the viewership of other sports. Does that concern you?
JS: Almost everyone who exercises runs. Everyone can throw on a pair of running shoes and go for a run. I think communicating that message — that we’re going out for runs just like they are every day, we’re just doing it at a different level — I hope that message continues to gain momentum and we can gain more followers for our sport.
You’ve talked about your famously short off-season. What do you have planned for your two-week break?
JS: I have a 10- to 14-day off-season, so I love getting outside and doing things I don’t typically get to do. And I really prioritize seeing my family. [Also], reading is something I really love. Before I left for the world championships, I signed up to volunteer at the library because I wanted to have something to do in the off-season.