Hassan gets 3 distance medals in amazing Olympic odyssey

Aug 6, 2021, 10:16 PM | Updated: Aug 7, 2021, 4:53 pm

TOKYO (AP) — By the time she reached the 65th and final lap of her eight-day Olympic odyssey, Sifan Hassan’s neck had seized up and she couldn’t turn her head. She could barely breathe and she couldn’t feel her arms anymore.

As she neared the end, she couldn’t see properly and thought “why did they move the finish line?”

Her legs knew right where it was.

Deep into her sixth race across three distances that covered more than 24 kilometers on Tokyo’s sweltering Olympic track, Hassan burst past world-record holder Letesenbet Gidey to win the 10,000-meter gold on Saturday.

“I have never gone deep like I have gone today,” said Hassan, who was born in Ethiopia and left when she was a teenager to settle as a refugee in the Netherlands.

No one has.

Two of her medals were gold — the 10,000 added to the 5,000 she won to kick off the Games. She also won a bronze in the 1,500, the race that nearly ended it all near the start of the quest.

After the 10,000 win, Hassan was crying on the medals stand. Crying for the wins, but also for something else.

“I’m so happy,” she said. “I’m relieved. I’m finished. I can sleep.”

Gone now, Hassan said, were the “stupid nightmares” that kept waking her as she fretted over whether she’d made a disastrous decision to try all three events.

Who else would think of such a thing?

“There’s something wrong with me,” she said. “But I am really happy. Grateful.”

Hassan had run three 1,500- and two 5,000-meter races by the time she lined up against Gidey for Saturday’s start. She’d also tripped over another runner in one of her 1,500 qualifying rounds and had to pick herself and sprint the last lap to win and keep her quest for the triple alive.

Her last obstacle was Gidey, who holds world records in the 5,000 and 10,000, and was fresh — here for only one race and hoping for only one gold medal.

Gidey led for much of the race, with Hassan tucked in behind her. As they came out of the last turn of the last lap, Hassan commanded her legs to go one more time. They did, and Gidey — slightly thrown as Hassan launched her attack while they approached a bunch of lapped runners — had no response.

Hassan won in 29 minutes, 55.32 seconds. Kalkidan Gezahegne also passed Gidey for silver, with Gidey holding on for the bronze.

Hassan said she knew she’d won, but not much else registered. What happened just before and just after the finish line was a blur.

“Then, I wanted to celebrate,” she said. “But when I finished I just fell down. I couldn’t breathe.”

Hassan lay on her side on the track as a medic applied an ice pack to her neck and to the side of her head. But it lasted just a minute or two. She soon bounced back to her feet and draped a Dutch flag over her shoulders, ready for her third round of celebrations.

Fanny Blankers-Koen is the only other woman to win three individual track medals at an Olympics. It was a relative breeze for the Dutch sprinter in the 100, 200 and the 80-meter hurdles (she also won a gold in the 4×100-meter relay). Not since the days of the great Emil Zatopek has a distance runner clinched three individual medals. Zatopek incredibly got golds in the 5,000, 10,000 and marathon at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics.

In more recent times, a 5,000-10,000 double was considered the limit for the greats — runners such as Mo Farah, Kenenisa Bekele and Tirunesh Dibaba.

Hassan ran the 1,500-10,000 double and won both at world championships two years ago in Doha, Qatar.

Now this.

Hassan said running during her formative days in school was how she burned off her “excess energy.”

That has stayed with the 28-year-old through her career. Amid her hectic schedule, Hassan also squeezed in a few training runs in Tokyo, as if six top-class distance races at the Olympics weren’t enough.

Would she bother going for another run on Sunday?

“No,” she said. “I’m going to have coffee and chill out.”

___

More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/2020-tokyo-olympics and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Travon Walker rushes against the Kansas City Chiefs during t...
Associated Press

Walker, Hutchinson meet again, this time with Jags, Lions

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Travon Walker and Aidan Hutchinson will always be compared to one another. Same class. Same position. Same lofty expectations. The top two picks in the 2022 NFL draft will be on the same field for the first time as pros when Detroit hosts Jacksonville on Sunday, a matchup of 4-7 teams […]
1 day ago
A member of the AlKuwari family shows the trophy after winning the first prize at the Mzayen World ...
Associated Press

Camel pageant among attractions on World Cup sidelines

ASH-SHHANIYA, Qatar (AP) — Like all good pageant contestants, Nazaa’a displayed not only dazzling beauty but also poise and grace. She batted her eyelashes and flashed a toothy smile for the television cameras at the Mzayen World Cup, a pageant held in the Qatari desert about 15 miles (25 kilometers) away from Doha and soccer’s […]
1 day ago
Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson throws a pass during an NFL football practice at the te...
Associated Press

Watson has better shot winning with Browns than fixing image

Deshaun Watson has a better chance of leading the Cleveland Browns to their first Super Bowl title than rebuilding his public image. The disgraced quarterback wouldn’t address his 11-game suspension for sexual misconduct or his league-mandated therapy sessions on Thursday in his first comments since returning to the Browns. “I have been advised to stay […]
1 day ago
Japan's Kaoru Mitoma appears to have the ball over the line before crossing it for a goal during th...
Associated Press

AP photo catches key moment before Japan’s World Cup goal

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — From most angles, it looked like the ball went out of play just before Japan scored its winning goal in the 2-1 victory against Spain in the World Cup. Associated Press photographer Petr David Josek took a photo from above that appears to support the referee’s decision to allow it. Josek’s […]
1 day ago
Belgium's Leandro Trossard, left, and Croatia's Josko Gvardiol fight for the ball during the World ...
Associated Press

‘Little Pep’ Gvardiol coming up big for Croatia at World Cup

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — For 90 minutes, the hulking, masked mass that is Josko Gvardiol kept Belgium’s big-name strikers at bay with timely tackles — none bigger than his stop on Romelu Lukaku two minutes into stoppage time. Then the 20-year-old Croat who is fast becoming the most sought-after center back in Europe went over […]
1 day ago
Christian Pulisic of the United States attends a press conference before a training session at Al-G...
Associated Press

US star Pulisic on track to play against Dutch in World Cup

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Christian Pulisic is on track to play for the United States in its World Cup round of 16 match against the Netherlands on Saturday, Pulisic left Tuesday’s final group stage match against Iran at halftime after bruising his pelvic bone in a collision with the goalkeeper while scoring in the 38th […]
1 day ago
Hassan gets 3 distance medals in amazing Olympic odyssey