She's out for an unprecedented Olympic triple crown, even if 'people think I'm crazy'

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Sifan Hassan, of the Netherlands, celebrates as she crosses the finish line.
Netherlands distance runner Sifan Hassan celebrates as she crosses the finish line to win the women's 5,000-meter final at the Tokyo Olympics on Monday. (Petr David Josek / Associated Press)

Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands is attempting to become the first athlete to win the 1,500-, 5,000- and 10,000-meter events in the same Olympic Games.

To achieve the feat, she would have to run six races in eight days — and win all the finals.

It’s a daunting challenge, one that will require remarkable stamina and endurance. But Hassan took the first major step Monday, showing remarkable grit at Olympic Stadium.

In the morning, during a heat for the 1,500, Hassan fell just after beginning the final lap.

No problem.

She got up, chased down a pack of the world’s best distance runners, and then sprinted down the final stretch for victory that advanced her into Wednesday’s semifinals.

Later Monday, she returned to the stadium and won the gold medal in the 5,000.

“Many people think I’m crazy” to try to win three distance events at the same Games, she said after her first victory. “Life is not about the goal or about the win. ... It’s about follow your heart.”

Hassan, 28, was born in Ethiopia. She emigrated to the Netherlands in 2008. At the 2016 Rio Games, Hassan finished fifth in the 1,500. In 2019, she won world championships in the 1,500 and 10,000.

Now she has her first gold medal.

Hassan’s comeback victory in the 1,500-meter qualifying heat set the stage.

“Sometimes bad things happen for good,” she said of her fall.

Hassan said she thought she had lost her chance to win.

“I was just going to finish the race and do what I can,” she said, adding that she talked to herself throughout the final lap.

“Until the finish I was talking to myself,” she said.

Hassan sounded as if she still has much to prove. Perhaps to herself.

“I’m lucky,” she said. “I’m not the best. I’m lucky. I’m really lucky.”

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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