Women’s 1500: Kipyegon vs Hassan is Set, Kipyegon runs 3:56 as five women break 4:00; Hassan into second final of Olympics

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By LetsRun.com
August 4, 2021

TOKYO — The final everyone anticipated is set – Faith Kipyegon, the defending Olympic champ and #1 in the world, versus Sifan Hassan, the Dutch sensation, who already won the 5000m in Tokyo and is attempting the unprecedented triple. 

Kipyegon and Hassan both won their 1500 semifinals in utterly dominant fashion, but in very different ways. American Elle Purrier-St. Pierre was a non factor in her heat 1 on the final lap, but advanced to the final on time, while Cory McGee fell (and was advanced to the final), and Heather Maclean did not advance. *Results

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Heat 1: Kipyegon 3:56


Just before the 800 mark there was a fall that took down McGee and Kenya’s Winny Chebet. Japan’s Nozomi Tanaka  led through 800 (2:09.1), then Ethiopia’s Freweyni Gebreezibeher started pushing the pace with Kipyegon on her heels. At the bell Gebreezibeher led (2:56.1), as six were still together including Purrier. On the backstretch Kipyegon would take the lead and start to extend it around the final turn. With the top 5 automatically advancing there were no bonus points for winning, but she effortlessly kept lengthening and lengthening her lead, crossing the line in 3:56.80 with Gebreezibeher 2nd in 3:57.54. Gabriela Debues-Stafford got 3rd and Jessica Hull and Nazolmi Tanaka set national records to get the final two automatic qualifying spots. Elle Purrier-St Pierre got dropped on the backstretch but would finish 6th in 4:01.00 and advance to the final.

Heat 2: Sifan Hassan Comes from Back to Finish 1st

Sifan Hassan stayed on her feet in this one but like in the prelim was content to stay in the back. She was near last until just before the bell where she moved up to 9th, but was boxed it. None of it mattered as she moved up throughout the final lap to take the heat win. It the final follows the semis, it will be a two way battle for gold.


Kipyegon: “I saw the time, I’m like, 3:56?

It’s strange that in an event Sifan Hassan is entered in, someone other than Hassan is making headlines. But Kipyegon beat Hassan in their last matchup in Monaco last month, and she had the jaw-dropping performance of the night, closing in 60.6 for her last lap to run 3:56.80 in her semi. That’s a time that only four other women in the final have ever run.

“I was surprised to run 3:56 in the semi,” Kipyegon said. “I saw the time, I’m like, 3:56? and I was surprised.”

Kipyegon added that she thinks the final could be even quicker but that she doesn’t mind what style of race it is as long as they run a “super race.”

“I’m going to do my best, what I can to defend my title and also to run my race, I’m not going to run because of somebody else,” Kipyegon said, referencing Hassan. “No, I’m going to run my race here.”

Elle Purrier St. Pierre’s goal is still a medal

Purrier St. Pierre saw the split at 300 meters — 46.1 seconds — and told herself just to weather the storm.


“I was just like, okay, just hold on for dear life, I think it will slow down a little bit,” Purrier St. Pierre said.

It did slow down a bit, but not much as the top five all ran under 4:00 — previously no one had ever done it. As a result, Purrier’s 4:01.00 was only good for sixth, but she said that her goal in the final remains unchanged: bring home a medal for Team USA. 

“I know I can run those times, so it’s just making the right tactical decision,” Purrier St. Pierre said. “You learn from experience and I learned a lot in that race.”

Purrier St. Pierre’s coach Mark Coogan told LRC earlier this year he believes Purrier St. Pierre is capable of running 3:55 and she may well be. But with how fast tonight’s semis went, that may not be enough for a medal — it wasn’t in 2019.

There were four national records in these semis

Eight of the 26 women in the semis tonight ran personal bests, and four of those were national records: Jessica Hull for Australia (3:58.28), Nozomi Tanaka for Japan (3:59.19), Kristiina Maki for the Czech Republic (4:01.23), and Sara Kuivisto of Finland (4:02.35). It was the second national record and third pb of the meet for Tanaka and the fourth national record for Kuivisto, who PR’d in the first two rounds of the 800 and 1500.


Nozomi Tanaka’s amazing Olympics keep getting better

When the women’s 1500 started on Monday, Japan’s Nozomi Tanaka toed the start line with the 24th personal best at 4:04.08. On Friday, she’ll be racing in the final with a pb of 3:59.19.

After Tanaka ran a national record of 4:02.33 in the first round, we asked if he she thought she could become the first Japanese woman under 4:00. She said she’d never run a 1500 where she’d gone out under 2:10 for 800 so she needed to start there. And start there she did as she took the field out in 62.3 and 2:09.1. At that point, she started to wonder if sub-4 was possible. Indeed it was.

She’s the first Japanese athlete to make a final here. Which was she more proud of – making the final or going sub-4? She said they were about the same.


Tanaka wasn’t the only woman to PR for the second straight race. Canada’s Lucia Stafford, the younger sister of Gabriela Debues-Stafford, started the year with a 4:08.92 pb that dated to 2018. After a second straight pb here in Tokyo, it’s now 4:02.12.  That wasn’t good enough to make the final but Stafford said she wouldn’t have believed you at the beginning of the year if you told her she’d be upset that she didn’t make the Olympic final.

Jessica Hull skips the 3:59s as Australia qualifies two

Jessica Hull told us that coach Pete Julian told her before the race that she was in 3:57 shape and that the 3:58s and 3:59s never needed to know her. Hull did a pretty good job of following instructions as in heat one she skipped the 3:59s and lowered her pb from 4:00.42 to 3:58.81 to reclaim the Australian 1500 record from Linden Hall.

Hall, who made the final out of heat #2, said she was watching at heat 1 on the tv and realized with 200 to go that her Australian record of 3:59.67 was likely to fall. Now both women have held the record on two different occasions. Hall said it was a tiny bit “bittersweet” to make the final but lose her AR, but did say she has one thing no one can ever take away from her – she was the first Aussie woman under 4:00. Canada, US, and Australia are the only two countries with two people in the final. The other countries represented are Uganda, Netherlands, Kenya, Ethiopia, Japan, Great Britain, Spain, Czech Republic.

We asked Hull if it was hard to be running so fast in a prelim as normally you want to conserve energy for the final but if you know you are running AR pace, then you want to run as fast as possible. Hull said it wasn’t difficult as she’s not at the stage yet where she can afford to cruise in so she runs every race planning on running 1505 meters to make sure she runs hard through the line.

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