The Triple Is On! Sifan Hassan Confirms She Will Run 1500, 5K, & 10K in Tokyo

By Jonathan Gault
August 1, 2021

TOKYO — After weeks of speculation, Sifan Hassan confirmed today that she will attempt the most audacious triple in the history of women’s distance running and compete in the 1500, 5,000, and 10,000 meters at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. The Dutch Hassan, who claimed an unprecedented 1500/10,000 double at the 2019 World Championships, has already qualified for the 5,000-meter final, which will be held on Monday night in Tokyo, but will add three more races to her plate with three rounds of the 1500 meters and the final of the 10,000 meters on Saturday. Here is how her full schedule looks (all times local):

July 30: 5000 prelims, 7 p.m.
August 2: 1500 prelims, 9:35 a.m.; 5000 final, 9:40 p.m.
August 4: 1500 semis, 7 p.m.
August 6: 1500 final, 9:50 p.m.
August 7: 10,000 final, 7:45 p.m.

Hassan has never won an Olympic medal of any color and would have been favored in both the 5,000 and 10,000 meters had she opted only to run that traditional double. But Hassan said that she is motivated by more than medals.

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Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images for IAAF

“For me, it is crucial to follow my heart,” Hassan said in a press release from her agency, Global Sports Communication. “Doing that is far more important than gold medals. That keeps me motivated and it keeps me enjoying this beautiful sport.”

Should Hassan win all three events, it would instantly go down as the greatest accomplishment in the history of women’s distance running. Only two men have won three individual distance golds in a single Olympics: Finland’s Paavo Nurmi in 1924 (1500/5K/cross country) and Czechoslovakia’s Emil Zatopek in 1952 (5K/10K/marathon). No athlete, male or female, has ever won three individual track golds in distance events at the same Olympics.

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It is possible, however, that Hassan walks away from Tokyo with zero gold medals, as she will face stiff competition in all three events. To win the 5,000 meters, she will have to defeat Ethiopian champion Gudaf Tsegay (14:13.32 pb, #5 all-time), the world indoor record holder in the 1500 meters, as well as two-time defending world champion Hellen Obiri of Kenya. The toughest test comes in the 1500, where Hassan faces reigning Olympic champion Faith Kipyegon, who soundly defeated Hassan at the Monaco Diamond League on July 9 by running 3:51.07, just a second off the world record. Finally, in her sixth race of the Games, Hassan will take on Letesenbet Gidey of Ethiopia in the 10,000 meters. Gidey broke Hassan’s two-day-old world record in the 10,000 meters earlier this year, running 29:01.03 on the same Hengelo track where Hassan first broke the record. Gidey is also the world record holder in the 5,000 meters (14:06.63).

Regardless of the outcome, the fact that Hassan is even attempting the triple shows a rare level of confidence and bravery and should be one of the storylines of the Games as the final week of Olympic action begins tomorrow.

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