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In the Tokyo Olympics 5,000 Meters, Five of the 10 Fastest Women Ever Face Off

The 5,000-meter women’s field features athletes who not only have the endurance, but also can turn on impressive finishing kicks.

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The women’s 5,000-meters at the Tokyo Olympics features five of the 10 fastest women ever at the distance. Add Sifan Hassan (she’s 12th on the list) and calling the field “talented” is woefully  inadequate.

Gudaf Tsegay, 24, of Ethiopia has the current world-leading time, 14:13.32, which she ran in June at the Ethiopian Olympic Trials. She also has a 3:53.09 best in the 1500 meters, which means she has not just the endurance, but finishing speed. In the same race at the trials, Ejgayehu Taye, 21, and Senbere Teferi, 26, ran 14:14.09 and 14:15.24, respectively.

Hellen Obiri, 31, from Kenya is planning to run the 5,000 meter/10,000 meter double, and she’s won the last two world championship titles in the 5,000. In June she won the Oslo Diamond League in 14:26.38.

The wildcard, of course, is 28-year-old Hassan, who represents the Netherlands and is entered in the 1500, 5,000, and 10,000 meters. It’s still unclear if she will race all three distances in Tokyo, but if she lines up, her chances of dominating the 5,000 meters are good. If she attempts the triple, it will be quite a show—six races in nine days. 

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“Life is not about medals, it is not about gold, it is also about history,” Hassan said at a press conference earlier this month in Monaco. 

At the 2019 world championships, Hassan won the 1500 meters and 10,000 meters in jaw-dropping fashion. She ran 3:51.95 in the 1500 meters and closed the final 1500 of the 10,000-meter race in 3:59, to win in 30:17.62.

Karissa Schweizer, 25, was second at the U.S. Olympic Trials but has the fastest PR of the American women, running 14:26.34 in 2020. Her Bowerman Track Club training partner Elise Cranny, 25, won the Trials and set her personal best in 2020 as well: 14:48.02. Rachel Schneider, 30, rounds out Team USA and comes with a fastest time of 14:52.04, set in May.

Schweizer, who is also competing in the 10,000 meters at the Olympics, predicts it will take a sub-15-minute performance in the first round to make it to the final. 

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“You can’t take any round for granted,”Schweizer said. “We have to be on our A-game even for the first round.”

Americans should set their alarm clocks for the preliminary round, which starts at 6 a.m. Eastern on Friday, July 30. The final is at 8:40 a.m. Eastern on Monday, August 2.