With the first day of the 2023 World Athletics Championships in Budapest, Hungary done and dusted, some competitors are thrilled with their victories while others are mourning disappointing performances.
We had our eyes on Ethiopian-born Dutch runner Sifan Hassan, who was attempting a triple victory at the preeminent international track and field event with the 1500m, 5,000m, and 10,000m races all slated on her docket for hopeful gold medal performances.
Yesterday morning, Saturday, August 23, 2023, Hassan kicked off her big goals at the 2023 World Athletics Championships by winning her heat of the women’s 1500m preliminary rounds.
Sifan Hassan executed a tactful 1500m performance, calling upon one of her favorite strategies of exercising patience by sitting back in ninth place for most of the race and then closing in a 59.22 last 400m to win the heat in 4:02.92.
She had a hefty double tap for the day with the women’s 10,000m final slated for just 7.5 hours later in the day.
However, even this short recovery time was further truncated by a one-hour rain delay in the morning that pushed the 1500m prelims back an hour.
Unfortunately, the 6.5 hours of downtime proved to be insufficient for Sifan Hassan to achieve her goal and take home the women’s 10,000-meter race gold medal at the 2023 World Athletics Championships.
Although she ran a great race last night in the women’s 10,000m World Athletics Championships., Hassan ended up falling short—literally—falling to her knees just 30 meters from the finish line after engaging in an all-out sprint with eventual 2023 World Athletics Championships women’s 10,000m winner, Gudaf Tsegay.
Although Hassan had managed to take out a slim lead by the end of the race and threw out an incredible final lap until the very end, Sifan Hassan’s legs seemed to finally allow the built-up fatigue of the day to set in just 30 meters from the finish line.Instead of staying straight in her lane against the pole (in lane 1) in the final straightaway, Hassan drifted out into lane 2.
In doing so, she swung her right arm backwards, hitting the right shoulder of her Ethiopian competitor (and 5,000-meter world champion!) Gudaf Tsegay, whom she had forced to go wide to run after Hassan came out of lane 1.
This impact seemingly made Hassan fall like a bowling pin, while Tsegay powered forward to win the women’s 10,000 World Championship gold medal in 31:27.18.
Gudaf Tsegay used her world champion 5000m leg speed to throw down an incredible last lap, hitting the final 400 meters in 59.01 seconds with a jaw-dropping 27.95-second final 200 meters to win the race.
For a 10k race, that’s a seriously impressive final kick!
Some runners may wonder why hitting Hassan did not disqualify Gudaf Tsegay from the race.
Normally, if a runner takes out a runner in front of them battling from behind for the win, that runner who was trying to pass and knocks down the runner in front trying to defend their lead is DQ’d (disqualified).
While it is true that Tsegay was behind Hassan and definitely bumped her, because Hassan drifted out of her lane, these DQ rules go off the table.
Had Sifan Hassan stayed in lane 1 instead of floating out wide into lane 2, and then Gudaf Tsegay bumped her or knocked her to fall, Tsegay would have been disqualified.
However, that’s not how this race played out because Hassan not only veered out wide and swung into lane 2, but she also splayed her elbows out wide and caught Gudaf Tsegay’s shoulder.
Tsegay has every right to stay in her lane and get to the finish without having to cut all the way over multiple lanes to avoid Hassan swinging out wide, trying to defend her lead.
If anything, Hassan’s maneuver was grounds for her own DQ.
That drama aside, Ethiopian women ended up sweeping the 2023 World Athletics Championships women’s 10k event.
The defending champion from the 2022 World Athletics Championships women’s 10k event, Letesenbet Gidey, earned the silver medal, finishing the 10,000m event in 31:28.18, while fellow Ethiopian runner Ejgayehu Taye earned the bronze in a time of 31:28.31.
It was truly a fingernail-biting finish, as it looked like Sifan Hassan was going to possibly be able to hold onto her small lead, but Tesgey’s hammer of a final 200m, coupled with Hassan’s legs failing at just the exact wrong time, led for the upset that Tsegay surely hoped for and Hassan surely feared.
The entire women’s 10,000m event was super exciting and demonstrative of the extremely high caliber of women’s distance running on the international stage at present.
This is what makes events like the World Athletics Track & Field Championships so exciting; fans of track and field and running at large get to see not only the fastest runners around the world compete at the highest level, but also see the larger picture of the sport we all love—in this case, the exciting state of women’s distance runners on a global scale.
The first American runner in the 2023 World Championships women’s 10k was Alicia Monson, who finished fifth with a time of 31:32.29.
Alicia Monson’s fifth-place finish is the best finish by an American runner in the women’s 10k since Emily Infeld took home the bronze medal in 2015.
Sifan Hassan was able to pick herself off of the track and get up to finish the race, cruising through in a disappointing 11th place.
After the race, Hassan wrote on Instagram:
“I felt so good in the race, I had patience and I was sprinting for gold. I fell and missed out on the podium. It happens, this is sport. Of course I am disappointed and sad. But I took on a challenge and I am not finished yet. I will shift my focus to what is ahead of me. Thanks for all the support and kind messages!”
Falling in a running race is never good, and when you are racing women at such a high caliber, you just don’t have any time—even seconds or fractions of a second—to recover from a fall so close to the finish line.
You can find full results from the event and all of the future events at the 2023 World Athletics Championships this week here.
You can learn how to watch the World Athletics Championships here.