EUGENE, Ore. - The stage is set for what should be a dramatic final in the women’s 1500 meters on Sunday.
Brenda Martinez won her semi with ease in 4:11.05 on Friday, after she made a strong move with 200 to go in the race. The 28-year-old, whose Olympic dreams suffered a setback when she was knocked to the track in the 800 meters on Monday evening, is looking for redemption in the 1500.
Long-time rivals Jenny Simpson and Shannon Rowbury went one-two in the first semi, with Simpson taking first in 4:10.09 and Rowbury just .15 back.
Rowbury, the American record holder in the 1500, and Simpson, who has won nine national championships in four different events, are each determined to make a third try at an Olympic medal in Rio.
Despite the disappointment she suffered on Monday, after the incident Martinez did not point fingers or express self-pity. Her response to the 800 collision seemed to have many of the Hayward fans in her corner on Friday, and Martinez said she appreciated the strong support, as she attempts to make her first Olympic team.
“It just makes me appreciate the people who support me,” she said. “They’re in my corner and I consider them family, so if they can relate what happened to me and they can move forward with whatever is going on in their life, then hopefully I can kind of lead the way for them.”
On Friday Martinez again refused to dwell on the past.
“I was trying not to let it faze me,” Martinez said. “It happens. That (800) team is already set and I’m happy for those girls and I have to move forward.”
She also did not seem concerned about the fact that Sunday’s 1500 final will be her sixth race of these trials – she will be the only one in 1500 finals who ran in the 800.
“(I) believe in my strength. I have one of the best coaches in the world in Joe Vigil. He has a medal in the 800 and the marathon so I know he knows his stuff, and that gives me a lot of confidence as well.”
Simpson also looked good on Friday. Though she has won two medals, including a gold, in the 1500 at World Championships, Simpson has not had similar success at two previous Olympic Games appearances.
“I want another shot at being on that big of a stage and doing well,” Simpson said. “I’ve had some really amazing moments at World Championships and Olympics and I’ve had some really low lows.
“2012 was difficult. Last year was devastating. Sunday is really important to me because that’s my ticket to maybe having another shot at having a great high at the Olympics.”
Rowbury said she was grateful to have had two opportunities to run in the Olympics, but the experience of being beaten by runners in London who later tested positive for doping left her more motivated than ever to get to Rio.
“I very much want to be able to go to Rio and compete there and represent the US,” Rowbury said. “Hopefully, I come home with a medal and get the medal experience that I deserve from London.”
While the three favorites all looked good in the semifinals, the 1500 is never a cakewalk for favorites. Alexa Efraimson looked strong, taking third behind Simpson and Rowbury, and Mary Cain and Morgan Uceny, among others, are experienced on this stage and could also surprise on Sunday.