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Dutch Runner Who Fell During Her Race Went On To Win Gold. She's Aiming For 2 More

Sifan Hassan of Team Netherlands celebrates as she walks the track with her country's flag after winning the gold medal in the women's 5,000-meter final on Day 10 of the Tokyo Games.
Michael Steele
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Getty Images
Sifan Hassan of Team Netherlands celebrates as she walks the track with her country's flag after winning the gold medal in the women's 5,000-meter final on Day 10 of the Tokyo Games.

It's undeniable: Sifan Hassan is killing it.

Hassan, a long-distance runner representing the Netherlands at this year's Olympic Games, was powering through the last lap of the women's 1,500-meter heat on Monday when a nightmare situation came true: a runner ahead of her tripped, prompting a domino effect. Hassan tried and failed to jump over a fallen runner and then fell down herself. She was undeterred; she got back up and, now suddenly in last place, went on to pass 11 runners to finish first.

"I can't believe it," she said after her win, according to Reuters. "I used all my energy this morning and I was kind of tired. I couldn't believe what happened. It was terrible when I tripped."

"I felt terrible afterwards and I never thought I am going to be [an] Olympic champion," she continued.

She then won gold in the 5,000-meter race

It was an astonishing comeback, but it later became clear that Hassan, a world champion, was just getting started. She went on to win gold in the women's 5,000-meter race that same day, becoming the first Dutch woman to medal in a long-distance race.

If Hassan has her way, Monday's gold will be the first of three. Her plan is to leave the Games having won gold in the 1,500-meter, 5,000-meter and 10,000-meter races, something that has never been done before.

She has come close once before. During the 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships, Hassan won gold in both the 1,500-meter and the 10,000-meter races.

Hassan says it's all about following her heart

When announcing her decision to go for triple gold, Hassan, 28, explained her motivation.

"For me, it is crucial to follow my heart," she said in a statement. "Doing that is far more important than gold medals. That keeps me motivated and it keeps me enjoying this beautiful sport."

One down, two to go. Hassan will next compete in the 1,500-meter semifinals on Wednesday.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Sharon Pruitt-Young

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