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Faith Kipyegon Defends Her 1500m Olympic Title in Tokyo

The battle between Faith Kipyegon and Sifan Hassan was interrupted by Laura Muir, whose tactics led to the silver medal.

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The women’s Olympic 1500-meter final was always going to come down to a battle between Kenyan Faith Kipyegon and Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands. The defending Olympic champion versus the reigning world champion. On Friday in Japan, the gold medal went to Kipyegon in 3:53.11, but the silver to Great Britain’s Laura Muir in 3:54.50. Hassan settled for bronze in 3:55.86.

“Once I crossed the finish line, it was a very emotional moment for me,” Kipeygon said. “I thought about my daughter who I left behind at home. She wanted me to bring home a gold medal, and I am so happy and excited I did that.”

Hassan, who already won the 5,000-meter gold medal earlier in the week, moved to the front from the beginning to take charge and perhaps send a message to her competitors that she wouldn’t cave the fatigue she must feel at this point in her ambitious Olympic program. She remained in the lead until the bell lap, though Kipyegon rode on her shoulder for the duration of the race, until making her perfectly timed surge with 200 meters remaining.

RELATED: Live Updates and News From the 2021 Tokyo Olympics

It was then that Hassan began to fade and Muir, who was denied a medal in 2016, seized the opportunity and moved ahead during the final turn toward home, stretching her lead and promise of silver in the last 30 meters. Kipyegon was away at that point and assured her second Olympic title in the event, in a new Olympic record no less.

“It was a really fast race, I knew it will be going until the last lap,” Kipygon said. “They are all strong. But I am so happy to have set the Olympic record.”

Hassan has already raced 36.25 laps around the track between the rounds of the 5,000 and 1500-meters. She still has a mere 25 laps more, in the 10,000 meters at 6:45 a.m. Eastern on Saturday. In all, she’ll have competed six times in nine days, and she’ll take home at least two medals, add her name to the track and field history books, and probably have some pretty sore legs.

“I am very happy with my race,” she said on Friday in the mixed zone (she skipped the press conference, presumably to start her recovery). “I tried my best, but I couldn’t do more than this. I think, for me, the third place is good. There was a lot of wind at the stadium today and that is what made it difficult for me. I can’t do anything about that, I just didn’t have any more strength.”

Hassan and Kipyegon have been battling at the 1500 meters for years. In the weeks prior to the Olympics, Kipyegon, who gave birth to her daughter, Alyn, in June 2018, defeated Hassan at the Monaco Diamond League, clocking the fourth-fastest time in history, 3:51.07. Muir’s time in Tokyo is a national record.

“It feels very, very good. Just relieved to have finally won a medal and to be an Olympic silver is amazing,” Muir said. “Since Rio it’s been five years of wanting this medal and missing every single time just by a little bit. And finally to come away with this medal is great.”

Hassan said she came into the 1500-meter final feeling stressed by the previous efforts in the rounds. She notably fell in the first round of the 1500 meters, then charged back in the last 400 meters to win the heat.

“Don’t forget I ran lots of kilometers already at this tournament. Especially the effort it took after my fall (in Monday’s race) had a lot of impact on me. Ever since that moment I feel super tired,” she said. “The last couple of days have been very stressful, and it has taken lots of energy from me.”

Team USA’s Elle Purrier St. Pierre, who won the 1500 meters at the Olympic Trials in a personal best of 3:58.03, placed 10th on Friday in 4:01.75. Cory McGee, who was reinstated into the final after falling in the semifinal round, placed 12th in 4:05.50.

You can see the full list of results here.