Jennifer Simpson of the United States competes in a women's 1,500-meter… (Stu Forster / Getty Images )
LONDON — American Jennifer Simpson, the 2011 world champion in the 1,500 meters, had a scare in her first-round Olympic heat on Monday and had to lean at the line to grab the final spot in Wednesday’s semifinals.
Simpson, of Monument, Colo., said she miscalculated the pace and physicality when she competed in the second of three heats. She finished sixth in a time of 4 minutes, 13.81 seconds.
“It's definitely not OK,” she said of her performance. “How can I have made this big mistake? I made it in, so I just about got away with it. What's done is done.”
She was spurred on by pure fear. “I thought, 'I'm going to have to make something happen or it will be over, I will be sitting in my apartment in two days,’” she said.
The race itself was bruising. “I was thinking, 'Someone is going to fall.' We were bumping and hitting each other,” she said. “It was so physical up front. I didn't want to be involved in that mess. It was a mess.”
Shannon Rowbury of San Francisco qualified on time after reaching the finish line in 4:06.03, and Morgan Uceny, who trains in Mammoth Lakes, Calif., advanced by winning her heat in 4:06.09.
Two of three U.S. men advanced past the first round of the 800.
Duane Solomon of Rosemead, an alumnus of USC, won his heat in 1:46.05 and Nick Symmonds of Eugene, Ore., won his heat and advanced with a time of 1:45.91. But veteran Khadevis Robinson, 36, did not advance after finishing fourth in his heat in 1:47.17.
World-record holder David Rudisha of Kenya eased into the semifinals by easily winning his heat in 1:45.90. “He’s ridiculously good,” Symmonds said. “He’s lost two races in the last three years, I believe, and both have been on cold, rainy nights. So that’s why I’ve been tweeting up a storm. Pray for cold, rainy Oregon weather, please.”
Solomon, who is coached by former U.S. 800-meter standout Johnny Gray, established himself as a potential medal contender by running a 1:43.44 last month in Monaco. That’s the fifth-fastest time ever run by an American and made him the fifth-fastest 800 runner in the world this year. Rudisha has the top four times, followed by Nigel Amos of Botswana and Kenyans Abraham Rotich and Leonard Kosencha.
“It felt good to get my legs moving,” Solomon said. “I am happy to win my heat and get to the next round.”
Symmonds said his heat was faster than he had expected, but he didn’t mind expending the effort.
“Obviously I’d love to get through with like a 1:49, but more than that I’m glad it was kind of an honest race, so it strung out a little bit,” he said. “No pushing, no shoving, so to speak. A relatively smooth race.”
Americans were shut out in the men’s discus qualifying. Jason Young of Dallas ranked 18th with a top throw of 204 feet, Lance Brooks of Springfield, Ill., topped out at 200-8, and Jarred Rome of Marysville, Wash., had a top throw of 195-5. The cutoff was 208-6.
Monday’s evening session will feature the women’s pole vault and shotput finals, the first round of the women’s 200, the semifinals of the women’s 400-meter hurdles, and finals in the men’s 400-meter hurdles, women’s 3,000-meter steeplechase and the men’s 400.
Sanya Richards-Ross, whose triumph in the 400 Sunday night gave the U.S. track and field team its first gold medal, is scheduled to run in the fourth heat of the 200. Attempting a different double will be London 100-meter champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce of Jamaica and bronze medalist Veronica Campbell-Brown of Jamaica, who won the 200 at Beijing.
Carmelita Jeter of Gardena, the silver medalist in the 100, is also entered in the 200, and Allyson Felix of Los Angeles, who finished fifth here in the 100, will try for a third time to win gold in the 200. She won silver medals at Athens and Beijing.
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