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Less than 12 hours after falling in the first round of the women's 1,500 meters but getting back up to win her heat, Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands won gold in the women's 5,000 meters.
"It has been an amazing day," Hassan told reporters afterward. "When I fell down and had to jump up I felt like I was using so much energy. I couldn't believe the feelings in my legs. All the energy seemed to leave me."
Yet with 250 meters remaining in Monday night's final in Tokyo, Hassan pulled away from Kenya's Hellen Obiri to win her first Olympic gold medal in 14:36.79. Her final lap was clocked at 57.36 seconds.
“I am an Olympic champion. How did that happen? I am super happy. I cannot believe it, especially after what happened this morning," Hassan said in a release from her agent. "I thought it wasn’t going to happen. But these last two rounds I stuck around with them. And now I am an Olympic champion. I am really happy”.
It is the first of three gold medals that Hassan is trying to win as she attempts to become the first person in history to win the 1,500 meters, 5,000 meters and 10,000 meters at the Games.
Hassan will get to rest on Tuesday before tackling the second round of the 1,500 meters on Wednesday before the final Friday. The women's 10,000 meters is on Saturday morning.
Obiri, who finished second at the Rio Olympics and entered as the reigning world champion, held on for silver again in 14:38.36. Gudaf Tsegay of Ethiopia, which hadn't missed the podium in this event since 1996, was third for bronze in 14:38.87.
Hassan's range is what has separated her from the rest of the world's best.
She owns a personal best of 1:56.81 for 800 meters, a 3:51.95 personal best for 1,500 meters, the world record for the mile in 4:12.33, a 14:22.12 personal best for 1,500 meters and a brief stint as the 10,000 meter world recorder in 29:06.82. At the 2019 world championships in Doha, she became the first woman to win gold in the 1,500 meters and the 10,000 meters. She opted not to contest the 5,000 meters, in which she won a bronze medal at the 2017 world championships.
Five years ago, she ran the 800 meters and the 1,500 meters at the Rio Olympics. She only reached the semifinal of the 800 and finished fifth in the 1,500-meter final. In 2017, she started working with coach Alberto Salazar and started becoming a force on the global stage after dominating at the European level. That relationship ended in September 2019 when Salazar was banned for four years by the United States Anti-Doping Agency for anti-doping violations that included tampering with the doping control process and trafficking in testosterone. Hassan has never tested positive for any performance-enhancing drugs.
In 2020, Hassan found a new coach in Tim RowBerry and raced sparingly, but her dominance took off this year.
In the 1,500 meters, her biggest challenger will be Kenya's Faith Kipyegon, who won gold in Rio and beat Hassan at the Monaco Diamond League over 1,500 meters on July 9. In the 10,000 meters, Hassan will get her first race against Ethiopia's Letsenbet Gidey. who broke the world record by five seconds in 29:01.03 just two days after Hassan's record-setting run.
The United States was represented by training partners Karissa Schweizer and Elise Cranny, who were both making their Olympic team debuts. Schweizer finished 11th in 14:55.80. Cranny was two spots back for 13th place in 14:55.98.
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