Athletics, Queen Hassan flies from the 800 to the marathon: “To discover the limit”


The Dutchman, phenomenal over all distances and Olympic gold over 5000 m and 10,000 m, today over 42 km in Chicago
six weeks after the World Cup in Budapest

Andrea Buongiovanni


She is the most versatile runner in history. Maybe the best thing ever. Sifan Hassan, Dutch, born in Ethiopia, where she lived for the first half of her 30s, has a personal best of 1:56 inches in the 800m and 2 hours and 18 minutes in the marathon. At the same World Championships (Doha 2019) he won 1500 and 10,000 meters. And at the same Olympics (Tokyo 2021) 5000 and 10,000, in addition to bronze in the 1500. In nine days. He is the world record holder in the mile and hour (18,930 meters) and also the European record holder in the 1500, 3000, 5000, 10,000 and on the road in the 5, 15 and 20 km half marathon. His medals? Difficult to keep track. The student of Tim Rowberry, former assistant to Alberto Salazar, disqualified for illegal practices of the coach with whom Sifan trained from 2016 to 2019, a woman of steel despite legs like toothpicks, six weeks after the World Championships in Budapest – silver in the 5000 m, bronze in the 1500 meter run and a fall 30 meters from the finish line in the 10,000 meter run when she was in the lead – today she faces a new challenge: the Chicago Marathon. She comes to us from 7,000 feet above sea level in Park City, Utah, where she has been working for a month and from where she treated herself to a Teams chat the day before.

Sifan, what are your goals in Chicago?

“After the somewhat complicated, if successful, debut in London last April in 2h18′, understanding how much I can really be worth over 42 kilometers.”

Isn’t six weeks a short time to recover from such an intense world championship and make the transition from track to road?

“I’m fine, I think I’m ready. I drove a lot of kilometers, pushed a lot, maybe too much: a certain physical and mental fatigue has appeared in the last few days. Overtraining is dangerous.”

Are you tracking a specific time?

“No, but I’m curious. As a marathon runner I have to discover myself, I still have a lot to learn: I am at the beginning of a new career.”

Does this mean he’s leaving the track?

“I like challenges that many people think are impossible. Anyone who switches to the streets will never come back: I want to be an exception and try to do everything at the same time.”

How much will this race influence the decision about your commitment to the Paris Games?

“Not much: I will choose which races I will compete in at the Olympics in advance of the event, as always based on my form.”

After London – with two stops due to quadriceps problems, a 28-inch deficit at the front of the race at kilometer 25 and a near miss with a motorcycle at kilometer 40 – Rowberry said he could try to emulate Emil Zatopek in France. . .

“They told me that in Helsinki in 1952, uniquely in Olympic history, he had won the 5,000m, 10,000m and the marathon, and then I saw a documentary that illustrated this achievement. The champions of the past fascinate me. Like Roger Bannister, first under 4 minutes in the mile. But I don’t set myself such prestigious goals because I would put too much pressure on myself.”

In Chicago he will face the Kenyan Ruth Chepngetich, first in the last two editions (2h14’18” in 2022, third all time). And six other athletes with better personnel than them.

“The line-up is phenomenal: we will start very strongly. But I’m less nervous than before London.

Would you have expected that your former compatriot Tigst Assefa would set the world record at 2:11:53 hours?

“What happened in Berlin ten days ago was unbelievable. I always thought that sooner or later a woman would run 2:12 hours, but not that fast.”

“It was the middle of the night here: my trainer updated me over breakfast. I thought he was joking.

Thirteen of the top 15 marathon runners of all time are active: why not stay on track?

“I said it: I love testing myself and pushing myself beyond my limits. And then I love long distances, even if my dream is a marathon on a cross-country route…”

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