Papendal, Netherlands • For Dutch track fans, Sifan Hassan’s 1,500-meter bronze medal at last year’s world championships was a breakthrough from one of their newest talents.
For the Ethiopian-born runner, it was a heart-breaking disappointment that left her weeping in the bowels of the Bird’s Nest.
Hassan started the race in Beijing slowly and had to run the penultimate lap fast to stay in touch with eventual winner Genzebe Dibaba. Hassan made it up to second place but Faith Kipyegon of Kenya overtook her on the inside on the final lap and snatched silver.
“At that time I was so angry, I was so sad and I was crying, I was so angry,” Hassan told The Associated Press at the national training center outside the city of Arnhem.
In broken English sprinkled with a few words from her adopted Dutch language, the 23-year-old Hassan said the mistake in Beijing has its upside.
“For mental also it’s really good,” she said. “It make me angry, it make me work hard. It make me see myself more I’m better than that.”
Hassan came to the Netherlands as a 15-year-old asylum seeker and was granted Dutch citizenship in 2013. She will renew her rivalry with Dibaba, who runs for Ethiopia, at this week’s world indoor championships in Portland, though Hassan admits she prefers running outdoors.
“Indoor is not my favorite,” she said. “I don’t have perfect lungs. I don’t feel my legs, but I feel my lungs. Taking breaths, that is not cool.”
Dibaba, who owns both the indoor and outdoor 1,500 world records, is the dominant force in women’s middle-distance running and Hassan knows she will be tough to beat in Portland.
Dibaba, voted world athlete of the year in 2015, underscored her form by setting a world record in the indoor mile last month in Stockholm, beating a record that had stood for 26 years.
The Ethiopian’s time of 4 minutes, 13.31 seconds beat Doina Melinte’s record set in East Rutherford, New Jersey, in 1990 by nearly four seconds.
“She’s a nice girl and how she runs is really amazing,” Hassan said. “(But) everyone can be beaten. … We will see.”