TOKYO — One gold medal down. Two to go.
Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands won the women’s 5,000 meters on Monday, the first leg of her Olympic quest.
In Tokyo, Hassan is trying to do something extraordinary and uniquely painful: win the 1,500, the 5,000 and the 10,000 meters. The 5,000 was her first chance for a medal, and she carefully maneuvered through the field before seizing control with about 200 meters to go, sprinting to the win in 14 minutes 36.79 seconds.
Hellen Obiri of Kenya finished second, and Gudaf Tsegay of Ethiopia was third.
While Hassan, 28, had been expected to compete in all three events, she did not confirm her intention of doing so until Sunday.
In a statement, her management team called it her “campaign for Olympic glory” and “an enormous feat.” There is little doubt that winning three medals — gold medals if she wants to dream big — would secure her place as one of the great distance runners in Olympic history. For her part, Hassan seemed careful to avoid setting expectations, suggesting she simply wanted to try.
“For me it is crucial to follow my heart,” she said in the statement. “Doing that is far more important than gold medals. That keeps me motivated and it keeps me enjoying this beautiful sport.”
She doubled at the 2019 world championships, winning both the 1,500 and the 10,000.
Her victory in the 5,000 marked the end of a long day, one of several she will have by the end of the Games.
She had flirted with disaster earlier Monday, revealing the fragile nature of a bid at winning three medals — for anyone, perhaps, but Hassan.
In her opening-round heat of the 1,500 meters, she was in comfortable position a few meters into the bell lap when Edinah Jebitok of Kenya fell directly in front of her. Hassan tried to leap over her, but stumbled and crashed to the track.
She got to her feet as quickly as she could and systematically chased down the field with her long, loping strides. Hassan made it look easy. More impressive, she wound up winning the race after scorching the final 300 meters in 43.7 seconds. (That’s sub-4 minute mile pace.)
Hassan breezed through the press area without taking questions as an official explained that she needed to rest and recover for the 5,000-meter final, which would unfold in about 12 hours.
One gold medal assured, Hassan will now focus on her semifinal heat of the 1,500 on Wednesday. If she were to advance, she would compete in the final on Friday. The 10,000-meter final is on Saturday.
In all, her feat would require 24,500 meters of running in six races over nine days, working out to a rough total of 15.2 miles. She could have saved herself the trouble and entered the marathon.
Earlier Monday night, Sydney McLaughlin and Dalilah Muhammad raced through the rain to safely advance out of their semifinal heats of the women’s 400-meter hurdles, setting the stage for a renewal of their rivalry in Wednesday’s final. Muhammad is the reigning Olympic champion, but McLaughlin broke Muhammad’s world record at the U.S. trials in June.
Soufiane El Bakkali of Morocco unleashed a furious kick on the final lap to become the first non-Kenyan to win the men’s 3,000 meter steeplechase since 1980. Lamecha Girma of Ethiopia was second, and Benjamin Kigen of Kenya was third.
And in the women’s discus, Valarie Allman of the U.S. won the gold ahead of Kristin Pudenz of Germany and Yaime Perez of Cuba.