'Scared' Hassan wins Olympic 5,000m in first step in treble gold bid

Her victory was all the more remarkable given she had competed, and fallen, in the 1500m heats earlier in the day.

Dutch runner Sifan Hassan. Picture: @AthleticsWeekly/Twitter.

TOKYO - Dutch runner Sifan Hassan took a first, giant step in her bid for an unprecedented Olympic treble when she sprinted to gold in the 5,000m Monday but admitted she had been "so scared".

Ethiopian-born Hassan, 28, produced a devastating final-lap sprint to time 14min 36.79sec.

Her victory was all the more remarkable given she had competed, and fallen, in the 1500m heats earlier in the day.

Kenya's two-time world champion Hellen Obiri claimed 5,000m silver in 14:38.36, with Ethiopia's Gudaf Tsegay taking bronze with 14:38.87.

Any fears Hassan might have to ride out tactics designed to thwart her from East African rivals Ethiopia and Kenya came to nothing in a slow-paced race that ended with an almighty bang that perfectly suited her explosive finishing skills.

It came after Hassan used up a lot of energy in falling at the bell of her 1500m heat and clawed back a huge gap to qualify for the semifinals.

"When I fell down and had to jump up I felt like I was using so much energy," she said after her victory in the 5,000m.

"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."

Hassan arrived in Tokyo aiming not just for the 5,000m, but also the 1500m and 10,000m in an unprecedented tilt at middle-distance dominance.

She became the first athlete to achieve the 1500 and 10,000m world double in Doha in 2019, an astonishing display given that it coincided with a four-year ban handed down to her then coach Alberto Salazar, the head of the now-disbanded Nike-funded Oregon Project.

The 5,000m in Tokyo had promised to be a potential banana skin.

In Ethiopians Tsegay, Ejgayehu Taye and Senbere Teferi, and Kenya's Obiri and Agnes Tirop, the entry list featured five of the world’s 10 fastest ever over the distance.

But she was happy to bide her time, eventually moving into the slipstream of the trio of Ethiopians, Obiri and Tirop, Kenyan-born Turk Yasemin Can and Ethiopian-born Israeli Selamawit Teferi.

Japanese pacer Ririka Hironaka fell off with six laps to go and Taye took up the running, but with neither the Kenyans nor other Ethiopians showing any urgency.

Forming an orderly double-filed pack, the race almost had the feel of a training run, but with two laps to go, a lead group of seven broke free, although an outright attack never materialised.

Obiri led Tsegay and Taye through the bell with Hassan immediately moving up through the field and into the lead down the back straight.

Hitting the front with 250m to go, Hassan put on the afterburners, chased by Obiri, but the Dutchwoman produced a startling sprint finish to cap an incredible day's running and herald an excellent start to her attempt to take home three golds.

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