Sifan Hassan: the reluctant world 10,000m champion

After many tries, Sifan Hassan finally has a gold medal hanging around her neck from a global outdoor competition but it would be fair to say the newly crowned world 10,000m champion was a reluctant convert to the distance.

After winning bronze medals in the 1500m and 5000m at the last two editions of the World Championships, Sifan Hassan upgraded to gold in only her second race at the distance on the second day at the IAAF World Athletics Championships in Doha.

Hassan moved up to the 10,000m for the first time this summer but this was a decision which was firmly precipitated not by herself but by Alberto Salazar who has coached Hassan since 2017. “About one year ago my coach told me you are going to run the 10,000m. I looked at him and I said ‘I’m never going to do this!’ said Hassan.

“Six months ago I think I was on holiday when he told me I was going to run the 10,000m for the first time. It was so boring but here I am!” 

Hassan made a tentative debut at the start of the summer campaign, winning the 10,000m in Palo Alto, California in 31:18.12. Her debut at the distance didn’t enamour her any further to the gruelling prospect of running 25 laps around the track again but the 26-year-old ran a masterful race despite her inexperience at the distance and her reluctance to even commit to the event.  

“My speed is very good, I’m in good shape and I have been training well but when I come to 10,000m training, I am always bored and I don’t want to work out on the train.”

Hassan covered each and every move gradually and conservatively before putting herself in a prime position to strike out for the title with the bell lap approaching. Hassan duly kicked past Ethiopia’s Letesenbet Gidey – who put in an extraordinary surge with four laps remaining – to clinch the gold medal in a world-leading time of 30:17.52.

“The first three kilometres was slow and I started to get tired – when it’s slow I get tired,” said Hassan. “But when they picked it up, I was more focused and much better.”

A world leading time was brought into view with a phenomenally fast second half of the race. Hassan covered the last 5000 metres in 14:43.8 – faster than her winning time at the European Championships last year – and the last 1500m in under four minutes.

In this form, Hassan will begin as a resounding favourite to win either the 1500m or 5000m towards the latter stages of the championships but the disagreements with her coach might persist beyond the 10,000m. “I am one hundred percent the 1500m. But my coach is one hundred percent the 5000m. We have to talk tonight.

“It’s good to get a gold medal but it is also good to do what I like. I just want to do that one,” said Hassan.

 

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