TOKYO: Dutch runner Sifan Hassan took a first, giant step in her bid for an unprecedented Olympic treble when she sprinted to gold in the 5,000m today.
Ethiopian-born Hassan, 28, produced a devastating final lap sprint to time 14:36.79s.
Kenya’s two-time world champion Hellen Obiri claimed silver in 14:38.36s, with Ethiopia’s Gudaf Tsegay taking bronze with 14:38.87s.
Any fears Hassan might have to ride out tactics designed to thwart her from east African rivals Ethiopia and Kenya came to nothing in a slow-paced race that ended with an almighty bang that perfectly suited her explosive finishing skills.
Hassan arrived in Tokyo aiming not just for the 5,000m, but also the 1,500m and 10,000m in an unprecedented tilt at middle-distance dominance.
She became the first athlete to achieve the 1500m and 10,000m world double in Doha in 2019, an astonishing display given that it coincided with a four-year ban handed down to her then coach Alberto Salazar, the head of the now-disbanded Nike-funded Oregon Project.
The 5,000m in Tokyo always promised to be a potential banana skin.
In Ethiopians Tsegay, Ejgayehu Taye and Senbere Teferi, and Kenya’s Obiri and Agnes Tirop, the entry list featured five of the world’s 10 fastest ever over the distance.
But pace proved no problem for Hassan, whose gold capped a remarkable day after she fell in her 1,500m heat in the morning session just 12 hours previously, but quickly got to her feet and won.
In the longer race, she was happy to bide her time, eventually moving into the slipstream of the trio of Ethiopians, Obiri and Tirop, Kenyan-born Turk Yasemin Can and Ethiopian-born Israel Selamawit Teferi.
Japanese pacer Ririka Hironaka fell off with six laps to go and Taye took up the running, but with neither the Kenyans nor Ethiopians showing any urgency.
Forming an orderly double-filed pack, the race almost had the feel of a training run, but with two laps to go, a lead group of seven broke free, although an outright attack never materialised.
Obiri led Tsegay and Taye through the bell with Hassan immediately moving up through the field and into the lead down the back straight.
Hitting the front with 250m to go, Hassan put on the afterburners, chased by Obiri, but the Dutchwoman produced a startling sprint finish to cap an incredible day’s running and herald an excellent start to her attempt to take home three golds.