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Hassan overtakes Gidey for second Olympic gold, in the 10,000m

Gidey led throughout the race but couldn't drop Hassan, who had enough left to kick for gold

On a stifling-hot night in the Olympic stadium, track fans everywhere watched as two giants of the track, Sifan Hassan and Letesenbet Gidey, went head-to-head in the Olympic 10,000m final. After 24 gruelling laps, Hassan pulled away from Gidey to take home her third medal and second gold of the Games in 29:55.32. Bahrain’s Kalkidan Gezahegne took home the silver, while Gidey, the world record-holder, faded to the third. Canada’s Andrea Seccafien ran a strong race in her first Olympic 10,000m final, finishing 14th in 31:36.36 – the second fastest time to her own Canadian record in this event.

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Those who doubted whether Hassan could pull off the triple had to eat their words; even though she showed she’s human in the 1,500m, where she had to settle for bronze, coming back to claim gold in the 10,000m showed her incredible resolve, as well as her uncanny ability to repeatedly run extremely fast on very little rest. As usual, Hassan started out in the back of the pack, but after the first kilometre she moved herself to seventh position. Meanwhile, Gideytook over the lead after at the 3k mark from Japan’s Ririka Hironaka, with Kenya’s Hellen Obiri and Irene Cheptai. Seccafien stayed with the lead pack for the first couple of kilometres, but fell of the back of them as the pace picked up.

At 4,800m, Hassan moved herself into the bronze medal position, and the lead pack shrunk to five athletes, with Burundi’s Francine Niyonsaba falling away from the front group. Each lap, Gidey cranked up the pace, from 3:04 to 3:00 to 2:58 to 2:56, gradually winding things up to challenge her competitors. Hassan stuck right on her shoulder, never leaving more than one metre between herself and her competitor. In the stifling heat of the Olympic stadium, athletes began dropping out of the race, with four walking off the track by the 6 km mark. Kenya’s Obiri, who was one of Gidey’s most significant threats for the gold, fell off the lead group at 7 km, ending any chance at a podium finish.

Letesenbet Gidey

By 8 km, the lead group of Gidey, Hassan and Gezahegne had created a 100m gap on the rest of the field. Gidey turned up the pace yet again, running 2:55/km going into the last four laps, gesturing back to Hassan, apparently frustrated that her competitor was running so close to her and not helping with the pace. As soon as the athletes hit the bell lap, Gidey put on the gas, with Hassan right on her shoulder. With 150m to go, Hassan passed Gidey, with Gezahegne on her heels, as Gidey faded to third. In the last 50 metres, she broke away and won definitively in 29:55.33. Gezahegne took the silver medal in 29:56.18, followed by Gidey for the bronze 30:01.72.

This is Gidey’s first Olympic medal. At 23, she still has a huge career ahead. This race was, in many ways, the epitome of her rivalry with Hassan, whose world record over this distance she eclipsed two days after she set it in Hengelo, Netherlands just a couple of months ago. (Hassan ran 29:06.82; Gidey ran 29:01.03.)

Kate Van Buskirk and Andrea Seccafien training in Flagstaff in 2021. Photo: Jessica Scarlato

Gezahegne, 30, won her first world indoor title in 2010 while still a teenager. In the years since then, she has moved to Bahrain and stepped up to the 10,000m, while dealing with various injuries and hardly racing in the years 2014 to 2016. We will likely see many more big results from her.

Seccafien came across the line in 15th place, but her position changed to 14th upon the disqualification of Tsehay Gemechu of Ethiopia. Her time, 31:36.36, was the second-fastest ever run by a Canadian woman, i.e. her second fastest time, since she set the Canadian record at 31:13.94 in May, 2021. Four runners dropped out of the race.