- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 23, 2023

BUDAPEST, Hungary — Sifan Hassan and Faith Kipyegon were in the same heat for the first round of the 5,000 meters. With the top eight moving on, this should’ve been an easy stroll for these two rivals and good friends.

It was, too, except for the competitiveness kicking in down the stretch.

They treated the race like a final, refusing to give any ground to the other at world championships on Wednesday night. It was decided only by Hassan dipping her head like a sprinter at the finish line to beat the Kenyan standout by .02 seconds.

If this was a preview, the main event should be quite a show Saturday.

“She just wanted to win,” the Dutch runner said of Kipyegon. “I’m like, ‘OK, if it’s important for you, it’s important for me, too.’”

The night before, Hassan’s race plan - like it typically does - involved hovering near the back in the 1,500-meter final. But her late surge couldn’t catch Kipyegon, who pulled away to defend her title. Hassan settled for bronze.

This time, Hassan switched tactics and jumped out to the front. Hassan figured this was the ideal time for experimenting. Nothing really to lose, with so many moving on.

Kipyegon relished the chance to stretch out her legs a little bit down the homestretch. But since no medal was at stake Wednesday, she didn’t go into full Kipyegon mode, which these days makes her almost uncatchable.

“It’s amazing to have this rivalry with Sifan,” said Kipyegon, who’s broken the 1,500-meter, 5,000-meter and mile world records this summer. “I’ve been competing with her for a long time. She is a good friend of mine. We push each other to the limit. It’s perfect. That’s sport. She’s amazingly talented doing all the events. It’s not easy but she pushes herself to the limit.”

Hassan is showing few signs of fatigue despite this being her third event in Budapest. Two years ago at the Tokyo Games, Hassan also went for three, winning two golds and a bronze. Since then, she’s dabbled in all distances, including the marathon.

“I’m just addicted to pain,” Hassan said. “Just go to work and see what I can do.”

Latvian teenager Agate Caune used a bold strategy in heat one of the 5,000. Caune pulled away from the pack early and just kept extending her lead. Ever so steadily, some of the other runners caught up and then began to pass her. Caune managed to hang on for fourth place to advance.

“It was risky,” Caune said. “But if you take risk, you get the results and I got results.

“To run like that, it hurts. These ladies are very fast.”

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