Each Tuesday leading up to the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020, which will be held in the summer of 2021, TeamUSA.org will present a nugget you should read about – from athletes to watch to storylines to follow to Japanese culture and landmarks – as part of “Tokyo Tuesday.” There’s a lot to learn on your quest to becoming the ultimate fan. Follow along on social media with the hashtag #TokyoTuesday.
Looking for a new breakfast treat, or creative ways to incorporate vegetables into your kids’ meals? Got a sweet tooth?
Emma Coburn has you covered.
The 2016 Olympic bronze medalist has decided to share her love of sifting flour and separating eggs with track and field fans through her Instagram, in hopes it will make the physical distancing time they are spending at home a bit easier.
“The amount of cooking and baking I’m doing now isn’t really different from my regular life, it’s just a matter of if I’m sharing it with people,” said Coburn, who is also the 2017 world champion in her signature event, the 3,000-meter steeplechase.
“My Instagram Live has been fun for chatting with people and friends, and baking and cooking together. And I do think baking helps pass the time.”
Dieters take heed: Coburn’s culinary confections include orange zucchini bread, carrot cake macaroons and Nutella-stuffed chocolate chip cookies. Fine for an athlete training for the grueling 3,000-meter steeplechase; less than ideal for the weight-watcher’s set.
“I did bake one healthier version of (black bean) brownies with a friend of mine that specializes in kind of healthier baking,” she said. “But my general baking is very regular: butter, sugar, flour, all the usual things. Having some normal dessert is fine for me.”
Sometimes, Coburn invites a family member or fellow Team USA athlete to join her for the shows. Steeplechasers Courtney Frerichs and Colleen Quigley, 11th and eighth at the Olympic Games Rio 2016, respectively, have appeared, as has world silver medalist hurdler Sydney McLaughlin and longer distance runners Aisha Praught-Leer, Emily Sisson and Cory McGee.
Coburn even posts shopping lists, so followers can plan their own pastries and breads.
“I know we’re all trying to go to the store as infrequently as possible,” she said. “I wanted to give people a heads-up of what I was planning, so if they were going to a store they could buy (ingredients).”
Burning calories is not a problem for Coburn. The 29-year-old graduate of University of Colorado is renowned for her tough daily drills and exercises.
Coburn’s husband, Joe Bosshard, is also her coach, so the Olympian’s running and workout routines are as strict as ever, even as COVID-19 has forced the cancelation or postponement of sports for the foreseeable future, including the Tokyo Games, which will now take place in 2021.
“Right now, I’m still training hard, it’s just the real difference is that we don’t know when the next races will be,” she said. “It’s a bummer that we don’t get to compete in Tokyo this summer or try and make an Olympic team, but this was the right decision by the [International Olympic Committee]. There was no logical way for the Olympics to happen this year in a safe space.”
Coburn and Bosshard — along with Arthur, the couple’s Jack Russell-dachshund mix — are holed up in their home in Boulder, Colorado. While other members of Team USA’s steeplechase squad also live in Boulder, they are all training on their own during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Coburn, they have all learned to adjust.
“Running is a lot easier when you have a group of people to run alongside and to train with and to help push you, so definitely that’s been the biggest change and the biggest hardship,” she said. “But we all have pretty good attitudes about getting through this.”
To help foster a sense of community, USA Track & Field texts out daily training and mental health tips and holds “town hall” athlete calls every other week.
“It’s been, I think, five weeks since we stopped practicing as a team,” Coburn said. “We know that eventually we will all get back together. We just have to stay patient right now.”
Before the pandemic put the world on hold, Coburn was building momentum heading into the Tokyo Games. The eight-time U.S. champion won a silver medal at the 2019 world championships in late September in Doha, Qatar, posting a personal-best time. Like hundreds of other track and field stars, she was gearing up for the Olympic trials in June. It was announced Tuesday that the trials will now take place June 18-27 of 2021 – one day shy of a year from the original dates.
Emma Coburn celebrates after competing in the women's 3,000-meter steeplechase at the 17th IAAF World Athletics Championships on Sept. 30, 2019 in Doha, Qatar.
“I did have a lot of positive momentum leading up to this summer,” Coburn said. “Now the goal is to just kind of put it all on pause and hope to just press play again next spring and get it rolling again.”
“Definitely, my goal is still to make the Olympic team and to be on the podium in Tokyo” she added. “I’m in a window where I’m in the prime of my career and I have some good momentum for my last several years of racing, and (the delay) doesn’t shift my goal or change it.”
Spring usually finds Coburn at her parents’ home in Crested Butte, which with an elevation of nearly 9,000 feet is one of the highest towns in Colorado. She was especially looking forward to spending time with mom Annie, who was diagnosed with colon cancer in December.
“I usually spend about three, four months up there training in altitude, and because of COVID-19 the town is not allowing any non-residents to be up there,” she said. “It’s a bummer that, because of this, I can’t see my mom as much as I usually would. That’s actually one of the worst pieces of this situation.”
Coburn credits Bosshard, a four-time All-America distance runner at Colorado, with keeping her in top shape both physically and mentally.
“I can work on things at home that maybe other athletes can’t, because their coach isn’t living with them,” she said. “I can work on certain exercises or work on some weaknesses in my body at home. That’s been great. We can kind of brainstorm together what we need, what this summer and fall should look like and all of that.”
The couple, married since October 2017, spends much of their down time snuggled up on the couch with Arthur binge-watching a number of streaming services.
“We just really like spending time together,” Coburn said. “We have a lot of practice spending time together, because he’s been my coach for three and a half years. I think some spouses are adjusting to spending 24/7 with each other, but me. … I’m pretty happy to just hang at home with my husband, and cook and bake and watch TV and train hard.”