Dutch runner wins first of three possible Olympic golds in the women’s 5000m on Monday in Tokyo after an earlier fall in her 1500m heat
When Sifan Hassan fell heavily at the start of the last lap of her 1500m heat on Monday morning, her three-way Olympic plan looked shaky. Yet she got up and still won that race before then cruising to an easy victory in the 5000m final later that evening.
Racing with her leg strapped up, the race itself was hugely disappointing in many ways but the finish was truly historic.
In the knowledge that Hassan had run a hard 1500m earlier in the day, had hit the deck in the process and possesses a stunning kick, you would have thought her rivals might have attempted to put her under pressure. They didn’t.
Instead a steady three-minute kilometre was trotted out and the kilometre marks were passed in 3:00.7, 6:00.3 and 8:59.9 as 14 were still in contention going into the final 2000m.
World champion Hellen Obiri went to the front and showed some sort of urgency but there was no real acceleration as the fourth kilometre was reached in 11:57.09.
The pace then picked up a little with laps of 69.3 and 68.1 up to the bell as the race came down to seven contenders – Hassan and two Kenyans, three Ethiopians and Turkey’s Yasemin Can – before five opened up a small margin as they entered the last circuit.
Obiri (13:39.5) led from world indoor 1500m record-holder Gudaf Tsegay (13:39.5), double world 10,000m medallist Agnes Tirop (13:39.7), 14:14.09 performer Ejgayehu Taye, who had done much of the leading (13:39.7), plus Hassan (13:39.7) who had been back in 10th for most of the race. They had a small gap ahead of Senbere Teferi (13:40.3) and Can (13:40.5).
Obiri accelerated slightly on the penultimate bend, covering it in 15.4 but Hassan did likewise as she moved up to third before unleashing a stunning long drive for home. Covering the next 100m in 14.0 she opened up a metre on Obiri, who ran 14.4, which Tsegay matched a metre down on the Kenyan as Tirop and Taye began to lose ground.
Any doubts that the 1500m may have taken something out of Hassan were dispelled completely as she covered the last bend in an incredible 13.7, with Obiri now three metres back after a 13.9 and over five metres now to Tsegay.
READ MORE: Sifan Hassan survives fall in 1500m heat
As they hit the final straight, Obiri made a huge effort to close but Hassan went away further and the Kenyan clearly settled for her second Olympic silver, with Tsegay comfortably holding on to bronze.
The times of 14:36.79, 14:38.36 and 14:38.87 showed the dominance of the Dutch runner, who must have stunned the watching 1500m and 10,000m runners who will face Hassan later in the week.
She covered the last 200m in a stunning 27.7, 300m in 41.8 and 400m in 57.1, times unprecedented in Olympic history or indeed any major 5000m race.
Her last 800m was 2:04.7 and 1500m in 4:07.0.
Obiri ran her last lap in 58.9 and Tsegay 59.4, which was faster than anyone had previously managed in an Olympic final but left them totally outclassed.
Back in seventh Nadia Battocletti of Italy ran a good last lap to finish seventh and top European in a PB 14:46.29, just ahead of Can’s 14:46.49.
“I can’t believe it,” said Hassan. “I used all my energy this morning and I was kind of tired. I couldn’t believe what happened. It was terrible when I tripped. I felt terrible afterwards and I never thought I was going to be Olympic champion.
“It has been an amazing day. 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.
“Before the race here I didn’t even care. I was so tired. Without coffee I would never be Olympic champion. I needed all the caffeine. I was so scared I wasn’t going to do it.”