Six races in eight days? No problem for Sifan Hassan who won the long-distance track double and 1500m bronze at Tokyo 2020.
How about 24,500 metres of Olympic racing in the matter of eight days?
Sifan Hassan has done it and ended with victory in the 10,000m on Saturday (7 August) to take her Tokyo 2020 medal haul to two golds and a bronze.
After taking gold in Monday night's 5000m final, having recovered from a fall in the 1500m heats that morning, the Dutch runner came up short in Friday's 1500m final.
She tried her hardest to stretch Rio 2016 champion Faith Kipyegon, but the Kenyan stayed with her and sprinted clear to retain her title with Britain's Laura Muir passing Hassan for second.
Less than 24 hours later, she was back on the track in the 10,000m and managed to stay with long-time leader and world record holder Letesenbet Gidey before kicking clear on the home turn with Kalkidan Gezahegne passing Gidey for silver.
Her exertions in Tokyo caught up with her as she needed medical assistance after crossing the line, but she was soon able to jog round on a lap of honour with the Dutch flag.
She may have been denied a famous golden treble, but Hassan has become the first woman since Tirunesh Dibaba at Beijing 2008 to complete the long-distance track double.
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Hassan announced last Sunday that she would compete in each of the 1500m, 5000m, and 10,000m races at Tokyo 2020, a line-up rarely seen – especially in the hot conditions athletics runners are facing at these Games.
“For me it is crucial to follow my heart,” said Hassan in a press release. “Doing that is far more important than gold medals. That keeps me motivated and it keeps me enjoying this beautiful sport.”
Having already run on Friday (30 July) to qualify for the 5000m final, Hassan fell with a lap to go in Monday morning's 1500m first round, but picked herself up to win the heat!
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Just 12 hours later, Hassan produced her famed finishing kick to take her first global title over 5000m and her first Olympic medal.
Then came her 1500m bronze after which she said, "I am very happy with my race. I tried my best, but I couldn't do more than this. There was a lot of wind at the stadium today and that made it difficult for me. I can't do anything about that, I just didn't have any more strength.
"I am happy with how it all goes (so far), but I feel stressed every day. There is nothing to do but focus on Saturday's race. The body is very tired. I need it for tomorrow."
It may have been very tired, but it served Hassan well as she finished the Games on a high.
See the full rundown of her results below – and find out what other similar feats have been attempted in athletics in Games past, as you get to know the distance running star.
Early life and making her international mark
Born in Ethiopia in 1993, Hassan arrived in the Netherlands as a 15-year-old refugee in 2008. She split her time between running and studying to become a nurse.
She became a Dutch citizen in late 2013, which allowed her to represent the Netherlands in competition.
As early as 2011, Hassan began making her mark on the international stage, winning the Eindhoven Half Marathon that year. In 2013, she won the 3000m at the Ostrava Golden Spike meeting in June.
At the 2014 European Championships in Zurich, Hassan took gold in the 1500m and a year later, she won bronze in the 1500m at the World Championships in Beijing, joining Dafne Schippers as the only Dutch athletes to win medals at the Worlds.
She had clearly established herself as one to watch ahead of Rio 2016, though injuries hampered her build-up to those Games, where she went out in the heats in the 800m but reached the final of the 1500m, where she finished fifth behind Kenya’s gold medallist Faith Kipyegon.
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Has anyone else tried this... well, sorta?
Has anyone tried such an Olympic programme before? Let’s compare it with two great long-distance feats at Olympic Games.
According to The Guardian, Paavo Nurmi went for four at Paris 1924: Nurmi won the men's 1500m, 5000m, and 3000m team event – as well as two cross-country events – but “Finnish officials feared for his health and refused to let him race the 10,000m.”
The 1500, 3000 and 5000 happened over a span of just five days.
At Helsinki 1952, Czechoslovakia’s Emil Zatopek won the 5000m, 10,000m, and marathon (42km) – all in Olympic records. Those four races (a semi and a final for the 5000), took place over eight days.
The long lead-up to Tokyo
After Rio, Hassan joined Alberto Salazar’s training group in Oregon, keeping her focus largely on the 1500m. She was fifth again (behind Kipyegon) in the 1500m at the 2017 World Championships in London and took bronze in the 5000m with another Kenyan, Hellen Obiri, winning gold.
In 2019, after a quiet season to start, she set a new mile world record at the Monaco Diamond League in 4:12.33.
At the World Championships in Doha, she entered the 10,000m having only ran the race competitively just once before. But Hassan closed down Letesenbet Gidey before sprinting clear on the last lap to take her first global title.
A week later, she showed her versatility by winning the 1500m to complete a unique double at Worlds.
After worlds, it was announced that her coach, Salazar, would be suspended from athletics due to doping allegations. Hassan denied any knowledge of wrongdoing.
She continued to perform at the top level after his suspension: She set the aforementioned mile world record in 2019, then ran the fourth fastest 10,000m ever before setting a new world record at that distance in June of 2021. (That record was broken two days later, by Gidey)
Hassan got the better of Gidey again in the Olympic 10,000m final to add the title to her world crown.
How did Hassan's Tokyo schedule work, exactly?
Here’s a breakdown of Hassan’s potential schedule, having already advance through into the final of the 5000m on Monday night (2 Aug.).
Fri 30 July 19:00 JST - 5000m semi-finals – Finished 1st, to reach final.
Mon 2 August 09:47 JST - 1500m round 1 - Finished 1st in heat despite falling, to reach semi-finals.
Mon 2 August 21:40 JST - 5000m final - Won gold in 14:36.79.
Wed 4 August around 17:00 JST - 1500m semi-finals - Finished 1st to reach final.
Fri 6 August 21:50 JST - 1500m final - Took bronze in 3:55.86 behind Faith Kipyegon and Laura Muir.
Sat 7 August 19:45 JST - 10,000m final - Won gold in 29:55.32.
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