She's only the ninth woman ever to earn a steeple medal too; the Olympic event has only been available to women since 2008.
Emma Coburn has been all over the place leading up the Olympics. For track fans, she’s easily recognizable as the queen of steeplechase. Her near-perfect running form and ability to command 3,000 meters of running and hurdling over the steeple is hardly matched by anyone else. For people who might not be as familiar with track, she’s most recently recognized as one of the athletes featured in ESPN’s famous Body Issue, featuring athletes of all shapes and sizes in various sports. The issue was perfectly timed this year, being an Olympic year, to highlight one of America’s greatest track runners just ahead of the Olympic Trials and Games in Rio.
Coburn went into the games as the top American steeplechaser, having broken her own American record earlier this year. Now, she can add one more check to her list of accomplishments—a big, fat red, white and blue check. Coburn just earned the U.S. its first medal ever, the bronze, not even one second behind silver medalist Hyvin Jepkemoi of Kenya.
Women have only been competing in the steeplechase since the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, so the historical significance runs deeper than just the podium; Coburn is literally one of the first 10 women to ever earn an Olympic medal in the event. Her time—9:07:63—is also the eighth fastest mark of all time for any women competing in the event. Oh, and it’s also ANOTHER American record for the speedy runner.
Coburn has undoubtedly set a brand-new standard for the event; she will forever be etched into the American and world history of the steeplechase, and everyone that competes after her will be chasing that blonde ponytail that totally slayed again, and again, and again. And again.