WRITTEN FOR THE BISLETT GAMES WEBSITE
Steeplechase stars, Emma Coburn and Karoline Bjerkeli Grovdal spoke to the press ahead of Thursday’s Bislett Games, as the fifth leg of the prestigious IAAF Diamond League series arrives in Oslo.
Celebrating the 54th edition of the Bislett event, the Norweigian capital is set to welcome an impeccable 3,000m steeplechase field which will feature no less than eleven of the world’s top 20 athletes, including Kenya’s world record-holder, Beatrice Chepkoech and her compatriot, Hyvin Kiyeng – the Olympic silver medalist.
For 28-year-old American Coburn, the fierce contest will provide a mouth-watering opportunity to hone her speed and skills over the steeplechase barriers against the global elite, and the world champion revealed:
“All the top runners are here for this race so it’s going to be a challenge but I’m ready for it. It’s hard to predict but I’ll run as hard as I can and hope to be in the mix.”
The runner-up in 2018 amidst bizarre controversy over the height of one of the barriers, Coburn’s steeplechase appearance is her first of the summer following a fine 4:05.24 1500m season opener in the US recently.
“It’s a dramatic event so we’re used to being on our toes and expecting the unexpected – hopefully there’ll be no drama this year or at least none that involves me. You have to find inner peace and focus on yourself,” the Olympic bronze medalist explained.
“It was a nice surprise to see the track’s brand new here – it looks gorgeous and feels great.
“This is going to be my first ‘chase of the year – I’ll try to be perfect for September for the (IAAF) World’s (Championships – in Doha) – I have a bye for that as won the title in 2017.
The 2018 world number six with a 9:05.06 best, Coburn broke the American record with 9:02.58 in the 2017 season and she now has her sights on surpassing the magical nine-minute barrier during her 2019 campaign:
“I know I’m fit but I’m not sure how race sharp I am – though training has been going well and I almost ran a 1500m personal best recently,” she revealed.
“I’ve not done a lot of steeplechase workouts yet – I’m saving them for later in the year, as it’s such a long season this year.
“It’s challenging to not get greedy too early – being patient is hard but you can’t participate too often, you need to hold yourself back more than you want to this year – and my other goal for the season is to dip under nine-minutes.”
Meanwhile for Grovdal, Thursday evening’s race signifies a return to health following her recovery from serious injury.
The 28-year-old Norweigian will be a popular attraction to the local crowd and the European bronze medalist is keen to simply enjoy the experience without any pressure:
“I’ve struggled with injury lately but I am fit now and really looking forward to run,” the four-time European cross-country bronze medalist explained.
“I’m excited as it’s my first race of the season and I’m excited to see what form I’m in – I’m not sure of my race plan as I’m not sure what shape I’m in so we’ll see.”
Quite surprisingly, the 2016 European 10,000m bronze medalist admitted:
“I’ve only been running for three weeks and I only did my first jumps over the barriers yesterday. I had a stress reaction to the pelvis in early April so I had six weeks of no running.
“I’ve focused on my running shape – even though I would have liked a couple more weeks, you have to start somewhere and I’m happy I can run now. It was actually helpful to have an extra month of winter training because of the injury and I’m in no rush this year.”
In her first competition since finishing fifth over 3,000m at the European indoor Championships in Glasgow back in March, Grovdal will undoubtedly enjoy returning to the Bislett Stadium, especially considering her history there:
The Olympic 5,000m seventh-placer finished seventh in the steeplechase last year and in 2015, in addition to taking sixth position in the mile in 2016 where she registered a swift 4:26.23 national record.
Whilst the 2009 European junior 5,000m and steeplechase champion is not currently close to her 9:13.35 national record 2017 shape, Grovdal is content to play the waiting game during this long season:
“Maybe it’s too early to go for any times – I have to be in top shape in September,” she said.
“Later this month, I’ll go to my altitude training camp in St Moritz and then I hope to compete in Monaco and then try to get the world qualifying time for 5,000m in London because I hope to do the steeplechase and 5,000m double in Doha.”