Sifan Hassan showed typical resilience in adding 10,000 metres Olympic gold to her 5000m title on Saturday, the night after defeat in the 1500m crushed her dream of an unprecedented treble.
The Ethiopian-born athlete who competes for her adopted country, the Netherlands, bided her time and produced her trademark last-lap kick to accelerate to victory.
In achieving the distance double, she emulated Ethiopian Tirunesh Dibaba’s feat at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
The 28-year-old’s steeliness is reflected in her favourite saying taken from the Koran, as she told Dutch newspaper NRC in January: “For indeed, with hardship will be ease.”
Despite her success at the Tokyo Games, Hassan remains a divisive figure in the world of track and field and questions over her association with disgraced coach Alberto Salazar still dog her.
Hassan did little to make those questions go away when she chose a former assistant of Salazar’s, Tim Rowberry, as her new coach.
Hassan insists she joined Salazar’s now disbanded Nike-funded Oregon Project in 2016 so she could train with British distance running legend Mo Farah.
She says she saw nothing amiss with Salazar, who last month was banned for life by the United States Center for SafeSport for sexual misconduct and emotional misconduct violations. Salazar was first given a four-year ban during the 2019 world championships in Doha. Hassan duly won the 1500m/10,000m double at those championships.
“The hardest moment and pressure in my life was in Doha and I handled it,” she said in July.
She did not hold back in an emotional press conference after that success, saying: “If they want to test me they can test me every single day. Every single day.
“I believe in the Oregon Project. I’ve seen Alberto. He’s worked really hard and that is what I know.” – Tough childhood – Hassan was moulded into a tough character by a hard upbringing.
An only child raised in Ethiopia by her mother and grandmother — her parents remained married but lived on separate farms — she was put on a plane to the Netherlands by her mother in 2008.
Up to then her childhood appears to have been an enjoyable one. “We didn’t have a car. But we could eat, it was fun, and we could buy clothes,” she said.—APP