Simpson ready for part as leading lady

In the centre of St Austell there is a mural displaying some of the most notable sons and daughters of the Cornish town. Next to images of Daphne du Maurier, Nigel Martyn and John Nettles is one of Jemma Simpson. The 26-year-old has appeared as an extra on Neighbours and been on the set of The Da Vinci Code but it is fair to say that in the wider world beyond the Tamar Bridge, she has yet to make a name for herself as a leading lady.

That could change in the space of two minutes inside the Montjuic Olympic Stadium this evening, when Simpson runs in the 800m final on day four of the European Championships. Last year she travelled to the World Championships in Berlin seemingly on the cusp of a major breakthrough – only to bow out at the semi-final stage of the two-lap event while her Great Britain team-mate Jenny Meadows took a step up to podium class, claiming the bronze medal in the final behind Caster Semenya and Janeth Jepkosgei.

This time round both Britons have made the final cut and both will line up as serious medal contenders. Mariya Savinova, the Russian who cruised past Meadows to win the world indoor title in Doha in March, starts the clear favourite but Simpson lines up as the second fastest in the field this summer, having clocked a lifetime best of 1min 58.74sec in Lausanne two weeks ago. The Cornish fastie also goes into the race on a wave of inspiration.

While Simpson was on the warm-up track on Tuesday night, winding down from her winning run in the 800m semi-finals, her long-time boyfriend, Chris Thompson, was chasing – and winning – a medal in the men's 10,000m final, a silver behind Mo Farah.

"She was lapping the warm-up track as I was doing laps of the main track, checking the television monitor as she went by," Thompson said. "She stopped to watch the final stages and started screaming. At one point the whole warm-up track was going crazy, because it was such a close one between me and the guy in third.

"I didn't see her until she was eating dinner. She was munching on a pineapple, I nearly choked her when I hugged her. We both pretty much cried in the dinner hall. Then I was like, 'Stop this. We've got a reputation to keep. I'm a hard guy, really'. It was emotional. It was special."

The special couple have been spending 12 hours a day in an altitude simulation tent at the UK Athletics High Performance Centre in Loughborough for much of this summer but have made their main base in the United States – at the Oregon Track Club in Eugene, under the direction of Simpson's long-time coach (and now Thompson's co-coach), Mark Rowland, the 1988 Olympic steeplechase bronze medallist and British record holder.

"Jemma came on a heck of a lot racing-wise last year," Thompson said. "I know I am her boyfriend but I always thought she would shock a fair few people this year and in the next few years. There's still chunks to come off her times."

Simpson concurs. "It felt amazing to finally duck under 1min 59sec in Lausanne but I know I can run faster," she said. "What Jenny Meadows has achieved over the past year has been really inspirational for someone like me, because it's something I can aspire towards. I'd like to think my time will come at a championship over the next couple of years – hopefully at the Olympics in 2012."

Or maybe even in Barcelona, right here, right now.

Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
TV
News
people
Life and Style
Apple showed no sign of losing its talent for product launches with the new, slightly larger iPhone 6 making headlines
techSecurity breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
News
The official police photograph of Dustin Diamond taken after he was arrested in Wisconsin
peopleDownfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Manager

£32000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Manager is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Panel & Cabinet Wireman

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Panel Wireman required for small electro...

Recruitment Genius: Electronics Test Engineer

£25000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SME based in East Cheshire, ...

Day In a Page

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?