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News15 May 2023

Sifan Hassan, the most versatile superhero


Sifan Hassan celebrates her London Marathon victory (© AFP / Getty Images)

Sifan Hassan, who won three medals at the Tokyo Olympics two years ago, ran her first marathon in April and won the London Marathon in dramatic fashion. The 30-year-old, who was born in Ethiopia but competes for the Netherlands, is a world star and could achieve great things at the World Championships in Budapest.

Hassan has been competing for the Netherlands since 2013 and has already set European records in the 1500m, 3000m, 5000m, 10,000m, and half marathon. She was also briefly the world record holder in the 10,000m, and has the fastest mile and 5km road records of all time. Due to her versatility, she is increasingly compared to the legendary Emil Zátopek, who won gold medals in the marathon, 5000m, and 10,000m at the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki.

Hassan's coach, Tim Rowberry, says she will be looking for a similar triple in Paris next year. For now, the big question is what her goals are for Budapest. "I want to run marathons in the future, but I also like track events. That hasn't changed," Hassan said after winning the London Marathon.

As proof of her versatility, Hassan once decided to run a half marathon without training for it and won it in Eindhoven with a time of 77:10. 

She arrived in the Netherlands as a refugee from Ethiopia in 2008 at the age of 15, and trained as a nurse before starting his running career. Her breakthrough came in the 2013 season when she won the 1500m at the prestigious Golden Spike one-day event in Ostrava. She also ran the 800m early in her career and has a great bend. She was granted Dutch citizenship in 2013, but it was too late for her to compete at the World Championships in Moscow. She did, however, attend the European Cross Country Championships at the end of the year, where she won the gold medal in the U23 category.

In 2014, she set her first Dutch record, running 4:05.34 in Birmingham in the indoor 1500m. Her first major world event was the World Championships in Beijing, where she made her debut in the elite 1500m with a bronze medal and missed the final in the 800m by just 15 hundredths of a second. It seems unthinkable given the recent success of the Dutch national athletics team, but Hassan was only the second Dutch woman to stand on the podium at a World Championships.

In Rio 2016, she beat Faith Kipyegon in the heats, but her Kenyan rival fought back in the final and Hassan could not be satisfied with her first ever Olympic Games, finishing 5th in the 1500m. She quickly found a way to make up for the missing nuances.

After the Olympics, she started working with Alberto Salazar as part of the Nike Oregon Project. The state of Oregon had already brought her luck in early 2016, where she won her first world indoor title in Portland, and her work with the renowned specialist paid off. In 2019, Salazar was banned, but Hassan was back on form: in Doha, she became world champion in the 1500m and 10,000m in an extraordinary way.

After her sensational double, it came as no surprise that she attempted the triple at the Tokyo Olympics, and it was not long before she succeeded.  After winning the 1500m in the first heat, despite falling in the first lap, Sifan Hassan went on to win her first Olympic gold medal in the 5000m with an impressive run. In the 1500m final, she took the lead from the start and set a strong pace to beat her old rival, Kipyegon. However, Laura Muir could match her, so she finished third. In the 10,000m final, Letesenbet Gidey, who took the world record from her, dominated the race until the last lap, when Hassan mounted a stunning chase to win the race. She made history in the Japanese capital by winning three medals.

In the 2022 season, she took a back seat and barely competed, failing to make the podium at the World Championships in Oregon. However, at the 2023 London Marathon a few weeks ago, she produced one of the most memorable comebacks in the history of the classic distance. In her first-ever marathon, she was forced to retire due to a minor injury at 19km, but she came back to win in a new Dutch record of 2:18:33 by outsprinting everyone in the second half of the race. Hassan beat rivals such as Olympic champion Peres Jepchirchir and defending champion Yalemzerf Yehualaw.

Based on her impressive performance in London, Sifan Hassan could be one of the most successful athletes at the World Championships in Budapest. She may make an appearance at the National Athletics Centre on Saturday, 19 August, when the women's 10,000m final will be held on the first night of the championships. The first round of the 5,000 metres will take place on the morning of 23 August, followed by the final on the evening of 26 August. If the 1500 metres is also included, we can watch her on the morning of Day 1, the evening of Day 2, and the evening of Day 4.

Regardless of what she decides to participate in, one thing is for sure: she will be one the most exciting competitor on the field between 19 and 27 August.

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