Before Friday evening, no American woman had won a medal in the 3,000 meter steeplechase at the IAAF World Championships. Olympic bronze medalist Emma Coburn and fellow Olympian Courtney Frerichs changed that with a 1–2 finish to capture gold and silver in the world championship final at London's Olympic stadium.
Coburn lowered her American record and set a new world championship record with her 9:02.58 victory. Frerichs entered the world championships with a 9:19.09 personal best and lowered it to 9:03.77 to win her first-ever global championship medal. Kenya's HyvinKiyengJepkemoi took bronze in 9:04.03.
World record holder Ruth Jebet led the race for the first two kilometers, which saw Kenyan Beatrice Chepkoech accidentally skip a water barrier and then a fall that took down some other competitors. A pack of six runners including the two Americans broke away before Coburn took the lead in the final lap. She sealed her victory with a surge after the final water barrier. Jebet faded to fifth place.
"The last two years at the Olympics and world championships in 2015, my last water jump wasn't very powerful and that was something that I really needed to work on," Coburn told NBC after the race. "My fiancee and coach, Joe [Bosshard], was telling me be really powerful in that last water jump. So that's what I was thinking."
Watch Coburn's sister's reaction to the gold medal run below:
Frerichs is certainly one of the biggest surprises of the world championships. She just 24 years old, won an NCAA title in 2016 as a member of the New Mexico Lobos and the qualified for the Olympics, where she finished 11th in the final.
"My coach [Jerry Schumacher] had told me to just go for it," Frerichs said. "He told me that Emma races smart and that could get me in a good position to maybe crack the top five or six and hopefully get a good time. I felt very comfortable following her. I know her form is great. I knew she was going to execute an awesome race and there was just such an extreme level of comfort."
Kenyans won the previous two women's steeplechase world championship titles but would have to settle for bronze in 2017.
The United States surprise comes just three days after American record holder and Olympic silver medalist Evan Jager (who shares the same coaches as Frerichs) won a bronze in the men's steeplechase final. Kenya's Conseslus Kipruto won gold.