Who Is Sifan Hassan? An Inside Look At An Extraordinary Athlete

Sifan Hassan is known as one of the best middle-distance runners of all time.

She is a Dutch middle- and long-distance runner who was born in Ethiopia. Hassan made history in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics by competing in the 5,000 meters, 10,000 meters, and 1,500-meter events, winning medals in all three. No one had ever competed and won medals in all three events in the same Olympics.

Hassan is the world record holder for the 5k road race (women-only race) and the mile, both set in 2019, and the one-hour run, set in 2020. 

In this profile, we’re going to learn more about Sifan Hassan, including:

  • Her running history and outstanding achievements
  • Her personal background and why she was a refugee from Ethiopia
  • Her running coach, training style, and sponsorship
  • Her height and weight
  • How she felt about being the first to compete in all three middle- and long-distance track events in the 2020 Olympics 

Ready to learn about this amazing athlete?

Let’s go!

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Sifan Hassan holding flag.
Wikimedia Commons

Who is Sifan Hassan?

Sifan Hasan is an Ethiopian-born Dutch middle- and long-distance runner.

She won gold medals in both the 5,000 meters and 10,000 meters in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and the bronze medal in the 1500 meters. She is the first athlete ever to win medals across all these events in a single Olympic Games. She is also the second only woman to complete an Olympic distance double. 

At the World Athletics Championships in 2019, Hassan took 1500 meter and 10,000-meter titles, becoming the only athlete (male or female) in history to win both events at a single World Championships or Olympic Games.

How old is Sifan Hassan?

Sifan Hassan was born on January 1, 1993, making her 29 years old. 

Where was Sifan Hassan born?

Hassan was born in Adama, Ethiopia, and raised in the countryside of Kersa in the Munesa district of the Arsi Zone of Oromia. She was a recreational runner there.

In 2008, at the age of 15, Hassan moved to the Netherlands as a refugee. She began running while studying to be a nurse. Hassan became a Dutch citizen in 2013. 

Sifan Hassan running with competitors.
Wikimedia Commons

Why is Sifan Hassan a refugee?

Sifan Hassan spent her teenage years as a refugee in the Netherlands before becoming a citizen at the age of 20. Her family had moved from Ethiopia in 2008 when she was 15. With a pair of old running shoes and while living with other asylum seekers, Hassan began working hard to train and improve herself while studying nursing.

Related: 14 Things to Know About Your First 5k

Did Sifan Hassan run for Ethiopia?

No. Hassan has not run for Ethiopia. She won gold for the Netherlands in the 5,000 meters and 10,000 meters in Tokyo as well as a bronze in the 1500 meters after leaving Ethiopia as a refugee 14 years ago.

What Is Sifan Hassan’s Height and Weight?

Sifan Hassan is 5 feet 7 inches tall and weighs 108 pounds.  

Who is Sifan Hassan’s Spouse?

Hassan is not married.

Is Sifan Hassan sponsored?

Yes, Hassan is sponsored by Nike.

Related: How to Run a 7-minute mile

Sifan Hassan running.
Wikimedia Commons

Does Sifan Hassan have a racing style?

Yes, Hassan typically hangs back in the race only to kick it into high gear (to win). She was called the “ultimate closer” by Outside Online.

What records does Sifan Hassan hold?

Below are Sifan Hassan’s running records and achievements:

  • World record holder for the one hour run, set in 2020 
  • Was the world record for 10,000 meters for two days in June 2021 
  • Owns five European records (1500 meters, 3000 meters, 5000 meters, 10,000 meters, and half marathon) and three Dutch records.
  • Was the 2016 1500-meter indoor world champion 
  • Bronze medalist in the 1500 meters in the 2015 World Championships in Athletics
  • Bronze medalist in the 5000 meters in the 2017 World Championships in Athletics

Related: Who is Courtney Dauwalter?

When did Hassan set the 5k world record?

On February 17, 2019, Hassan set the world record for a 5k road race in 14:44 in Fontvieille, Monaco, breaking the world record set on November 1, 2017. At the Prefontaine Classic in June, she broke the European 3,000-meter record with a time of 8 minutes and 18.49 seconds

Sifan Hassan running with competitors.
Wikimedia Commons

When did Hassan set the 1-mile world record?

On July 12, 2019, Hassan entered the mile run at the Herculis meet, also in Fontvieille, Monaco. Her first two laps were 64.26 and 63.94 (2:08.20). Hassan covered the last 409.344 meters in 62.20; her final time was 4:12:33. She broke Svetlana Masterkova’s almost 23-year-old one-mile world record.

What was Sifan Hassan’s breakthrough race?

Hassan’s first big win was in 2011 when she was 18. Affiliated with Eindhoven Atletiek, Hassan entered the Eindhoven half marathon and won the race with a time of 1:17:10. 

In 2013, she ran the 800 meters in 2:00.86 minutes to win at the KBC Night of Athletics and took wins in the 1500 meters at the Nijmegen Global Athletics, and Golden Spike Ostrava meets. This was when her name became well-known on the world stage of running.

Related: Who is Molly Seidel?

Sifan Hassan running with competitors.
Wikimedia Commons

Did Alberto Salazar coach Sifan Hassan?

Hassan was coached by disgraced Nike Oregon Project (NOP) running coach Alberto Salazar. In 2019, the 61-year-old American was banned by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency for “orchestrating and facilitating prohibited doping conduct” as head coach of the NOP, a camp designed primarily to develop U.S. endurance athletes.

Hassan, who joined the NOP in 2016, told Dutch broadcaster NOS that she was stunned by the news.

I am always clean. I always want to stay clean…I never thought something went wrong in this training group. Never,” she is quoted in Reuters as saying.

Who is Sifan Hassan’s current coach?

Tim Rowberry is Hassan’s current running coach, an assistant to Utah Valley cross country head coach Scott Houle.

A track.

How did Sifan Hassan do in the Tokyo Olympics?

Hassan made history in the Tokyo Olympics by winning medals in three grueling events, the 1,500, the 5,000, and the 10,000 meters. On the podium for her third and final time in the games, she cried, saying it wasn’t because she had won but because it was finally over, calling it a relief. 

She finished the final lap of the 10,000 meters with a “ferocious kick” that put her ahead of her competitor, Kalkidan Gezahegne of Bahrain, who finished second, and Letesenbet Gidey of Ethiopia, who finished third and holds the world record in the event.

“I have trained every single moment thinking about this for four years,” she said.

For Hassan to try to medal in all three events was unheard of and considered “crazy” among her competitors. According to the New York Times, Emily Sisson of the United States, who finished 10th in the 10,000 meters, said she was “shocked” when she heard Hassan entered all three races.

Olympic medals.

Does Sifan Hassan get nervous?

The Times reports that Hassan spent a week and a half ahead of the Tokyo Olympic Games with an inner monologue of confidence battling self-doubt. She kept telling herself it was possible, only to rebut with “No, this is not possible,” in reference to medaling in all three challenging events. 

“I think I have enough fear. I think the fear makes you strong,” she is quoted as saying.

Leading up to the final race, the 10,000 meters, she felt “so tired” and “stressed every day.” She was relieved when it was over.

Is Sifan Hassan crazy?

Sifan Hassan called herself crazy after entering all three track events in the Tokyo Olympic Games, a first. According to Runner’s World, the idea started as a joke from her friend who asked why she couldn’t enter all three.

Because it hadn’t been done before made her want to try. Sifan’s loss in the 1500 meters to Kenya’s Faith Kipyegon (who she later defeated in Tokyo) at the Monaco Diamond League cemented her desire to do the triple.

“Losing makes me crazy; I can climb (a) mountain when I lose,” she is quoted as saying in Runner’s World. “I was really scared to make the triple, but when I didn’t get what I wanted in Monaco, I told my manager, ‘I’m going to do three. I don’t care what happens; I’m going to do it.'”

Sifan Hassan running with competitors.
Wikimedia Commons

What race did Sifan Hassan fall in?

Hassan was entering the final lap of her 1,500-meter heat in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics when the runner in front of her tripped, causing Hassan to crash to the ground. She got up, passed her opponents, and still managed to win. Less than 12 hours later, she went on to compete in the 5,000-meter finals and won.

Did Sifan Hassan get hurt in the 2020 Olympics?

According to the New York Times, Hassan tweaked a muscle in her leg while warming up for her qualifying heat in the 5,000 meters. Reportedly this injury bothered her throughout the Olympic Games but was managed. She later fell in the final lap of the 1,500 meters, got up, chased down her competitors to win and advance—and later make history.  

You can see more of Sifan Hassan’s journey on her Instagram

If you need guidance training for a race, check out our training resources from beginner to ultra-marathon distance.

Sifan Hassan holding a flag.
Wikimedia Commons
Photo of author
Whitney Heins is the founder of The Mother Runners and a VDOT-O2 certified running coach. She lives in Knoxville, TN with her two crazy, beautiful kids, pups, and husband. She is currently training to qualify for the US Olympic Trials marathon.

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