Sifan Hassan of Netherlands created history on day 9 of the 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships, winning the 1500m for women and becoming the first person to win both the 1500m and 10,000m at the world championships or the Olympics.
At the event in Doha, Qatar, Hassan took gold in 3:51.95 minutes, a championship record. Kenya’s Faith Kipyegon – she was the defending champion – placed second in 3:54.22, a new national record. Kipyegon was returning to a major race after a long break. She is also the current Olympic champion. Gudaf Tsegay of Ethiopia took the bronze in 3:54.38, a new personal best.
The pace in the 1500m final was blistering and the victory margin, significant. Featuring 12 athletes, the race yielded one championship record, two national records, one area record, two season’s best and three personal best timings. Earlier on day 2 of the championships, Hassan had won the 10,000m for women, covering the distance in 30:17.62 minutes.
According to Wikipedia, as of October 2019, Hassan was being mentored by coach, Alberto Salazar. The latter, who is head coach of the Nike Oregon Project in the US, is serving a four year ban for doping offences. Salazar has denied any wrongdoing. The commentators for the 1500m final mentioned Hassan’s training in the US. In an article soon after the 1500m final in Doha, The Guardian reported that Laura Muir of Great Britain who finished fifth in the race, felt that Hassan’s performance was suspect. Hassan told the paper that she hasn’t done anything wrong and that the accusations of the past few days had inspired her to turn in a strong performance. “ I couldn’t talk to anyone. I just ran it all out,” BBC quoted her as saying in its report on the 1500m final and the sentiments it provoked.
Born in Adama in Ethiopia, Hassan left the country as a refugee and reached the Netherlands in 2008, aged 15. She began running while studying to be a nurse. As per information on Wikipedia, she got Dutch citizenship in November 2013 and started appearing at sport events for her adopted country, soon thereafter. At the 2017 World Athletics Championships held in London, Hassan had placed fifth in the women’s 1500m and secured a bronze medal in the 5000m. In July 2019, she had broken the longstanding women’s world record for the mile, covering the distance in 4:12.33.
(The author, Shyam G Menon, is a freelance journalist based in Mumbai.)