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By David Monti, @d9monti
(c) 2023 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

BUDAPEST (19-Aug) — In a nail-biting race with a painfully slow start and a rough and tumble finish, the Ethiopian trio of Gudaf Tsegay, Letesenbet Gidey and Ejgayehu Taye took gold, silver and bronze, respectively, in the women’s 10,000m on the first day of the 2023 World Athletics Championships at the brand new National Athletics Center here.  It was the third podium sweep by Ethiopian women at a world championship in this discipline, a feat achieved previously in Helsinki in 2005 (Tirunesh Dibaba, Birhane Adere, and Ejagayou Dibaba) and in Edmonton in 2001 (Derartu Tulu, Birhane Adere and Gete Wami).

“We never give up,” a delighted Tsegay told reporters after the race.

But such an outcome was a long shot given that the powerful Dutchwoman Sifan Hassan entered in the race and had the audacious goal of winning the 1500m, 5000m, and 10,000m at these championships.  She won her 1500m preliminary heat earlier today (see below) and had a plan to use her superior speed to win tonight.  And she nearly did it, but you’d never know that from her 11th-place finish.

“It was kind of crazy,” said American Alicia Monson, who finished fifth, when asked about the final 800 meters of the race.

Until that point, it was a classic championship-style race.  The field of 22 women jogged through the first kilometer in 3:37.6, led by American Natosha Rogers, then Finland’s Camilla Richardsson took over and ran at the front through 5000m in 16:23.55.  Hassan was in 15th place, in no hurry to join the leaders.

Richardsson had been running laps in the 75 to 77-second range, a pace that the entire field could handle.  It wasn’t until about 6000m that the pace quickened when Tsegay, the 2022 world 5000m champion, took over at the front.  Working with her teammates, she clocked 72.1, 72.3, and 73.5 through 7200m, and the race suddenly got more serious.  Still, nothing of real consequence would happen until there were two laps to go when Gidey squeezed it down to 71-flat, and the big players decided to show their cards.  Hassan moved up from ninth place the lap before to fourth place at the bell.  She held steady until the beginning of the backstretch, where she unleashed her explosive kick for the finish.  Tsegay responded but was still trailing the Dutchwoman with 200 to go.

The Women’s 10,000m, final 50 meters, August 19, 2023, photo by Christian Petersen for Getty Images/World Athletics

Charging down the homestretch, Hassan began to tie up.  She veered into lane three as Tsegay tried to pass her, and the slow-motion reply showed the two women made contact with Hassan’s right elbow hitting Tsegay’s torso.  The race was too close to call until the final 20 meters when the exhausted Hassan lost her balance, pitched forward, and fell hard to the track.  Stunned, she slowly rose to her feet before walking across the finish line, passed by ten women, including the fifth place Monson.

“I was there with a lap to go,” Monson told reporters.  She added: “I fought for every spot, and I’m proud of that; I’m happy with that.”

Hassan, who has her 1500m semi-final tomorrow night, did not immediately speak with the media.

Tsegay was clocked in 31:27.18, and despite the contact with Hassan, ran her final circuit in 59.1 seconds and the second half in 15:03.6.  Gidey, the defending champion, ran 31:28.16 and Taye was just a fraction of a second behind in 31:28.31.  Kenya’s Irine Kimais got fourth in 31:32.19.

USA champion Elise Cranny had a tough day and finished 12th.  She struggled, she said, in the final two kilometers.

“I think I was blacking out those last three laps,” she told reporters.  She added: “I feel like with a mile to go it just hit me.  I had nothing left.”