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The Netherland’s Sifan Hassan went for three gold medals in the distance events at the Tokyo Olympics and she came came away with two, plus one bronze. In her grand finale on Saturday in Japan, she won the 10,000 meters in 29:55.32, collapsing at the finish line from the heat and, likely the toll that six races over nine days has taken.
Kalkidan Gezahegne of Bahrain won silver in 29:56.18 and Letesenbet Gidey of Ethiopia, who owns the world record at the distance (29:01.03) took bronze in 30.01.72.
“We women are very capable, we are a lot stronger,” Hassan said, after her sixth and final race of the Games. “If you want it, you are strong and you can do it. People can do it. It is for everyone.”
The race was billed as a clash between Hassan and Gidey, who earlier this summer both set the 10,000-meter world record within two days of each other. The matchup delivered. Just before hitting 4K, Gidey went to the front to start to break of the field and by halfway, the lead group was down to five women.
At 6K, the podium contenders included four women, but Kenya’s Hellen Obiri began to fade. From there it wasn’t a question of which of the three women would land in the top three, but in what order. Gidey led the effort, clearly annoyed that Hassan was sitting on her shoulder for the ride—looking back at her and motioning for Hassan to either step out or go around.
But Hassan, who won the 5,000 meters and took bronze in the 1500 meters at these Games, waited until the bell lap to lead the race and put her signature finishing speed to good use, running away from Gezahegne and Gidey with 150 meters to go. Gezahegne did her best to challenge, Gidey seemingly had no answer, and Hassan was assured the win.
Going into Saturday’s race, Hassan said she had “total confidence” that her strategy would work.
“Actually in 10000m, especially in championships for me, the first three kilometers are boring because it’s slow, but today I felt like sprinting from the beginning,” she said. “That’s why I didn’t even go in the last 300 meters, I just went in the last 100 meters.”
Nonetheless, Hassan is happy the big effort has come to a close and she can relax—the triple attempt was stressful and caused a few nightmares and sleepless nights, she said.
“I am so happy and I cried during the medal ceremony. I actually realized that I am done, the Games are over,” Hassan said, continuing, “It’s not about how strong I am but how strong are the ladies I challenge. Now I am happy, I am done, it’s over.”
Like many athletes throughout the Games, Gezahegne found the oppressively warm conditions in Tokyo challenging.
“It was tiring. It was challenging, especially the weather because I’ve been training at altitude but not like in this humidity—the humidity is very difficult,” she said. “Thanks (to) God that I grabbed the silver medal. I’m so happy for this medal.”
After the race, Gezahegne said she has plans to move up in distance by 2024.
“I want to move up to the marathon,” she said. “At the next Olympics I will grab the gold medal at the marathon.”
It was a legendary Olympic performance for Hassan: six days, nine races, 61.25 laps around the track, and three medals. Grueling and entertaining—an athletic feat for the history books.
Emily Sisson, who won the U.S. Olympic Trials in the 10,000 meters, led Team USA on Saturday, finishing 10th in 31:09.58. Karissa Schweizer, who also competed in the 5,000 meters in Tokyo, placed 12th in 31:19.96. And Alicia Monson was 13th in 31:21.36.
Find full race results here.
This story will be updated.