Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Brands

Olympics

1500m Showdown: Hassan vs. Kipyegon vs. Muir — Plus Purrier St. Pierre?

Tomorrow the stage is set for a dramatic showdown between the mid-distance stars of three nations: The Netherlands, Kenya, and Great Britain — with a new American challenger. Here’s how they stack up against each other.

Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.

One of the most anticipated events of Olympic track and field will take place tomorrow on Friday, Aug. 6 at 6:50 a.m. EDT. I’m speaking, of course, about the finals of the women’s 1,500m, which will feature a historic show-down between four of the fastest women across four nations: The Netherland’s Sifan Hassan, Kenya’s Faith Kipyegon, Great Britain’s Laura Muir, and the United States’ Elle Purrier St. Pierre. 

Here’s your guide as to how each of these top competitors compares to one another and what racing strategies they may deploy in the final tomorrow.

Sifan Hassan Netherlands

Sifan Hassan of Team Netherlands running in 1500m.
Sifan Hassan of Team Netherlands has a dominating kick and unmatched resilience. She won the gold medal in the 5,000m Monday night only 12 hours after winning her round of the 1500. Photo: Matthias Hangst/Getty Images

The world knows her from the ground shattering victories in both her heat of the 1500m, where she fell with less than a lap left, and final of the 5,000m on the same day, Monday, Aug. 2. Dutch phenom Sifan Hassan is attempting to complete an unprecedented triple victory across the three distance events: the 1500m, 5,000m, and 10,000m in the same Olympic Games. So far she’s already won one gold medal — the women’s 5,000m. She’s also won both her heats in the 1500m first round and semifinal. On Friday, she’ll make her attempt for a second gold medal in the 1500m final.

Age: 28

Notable Accolades

  • 2020 Olympic gold medalist  — 5,000m
  • 2019 10,000 World Champion — 10,000m
  • 2019 World Championships Gold medalist — 1500m
  • 2017 World Championships Bronze medallist — 5,000m
  • 2016 World Indoor Championships Gold medalist — 1500m
  • 2015 World Championships bronze medallist — 1500m

Best Times 

Personal best: 3:51.95 — 2019 World Championships in Doha 

Season best: 3:53.60 — 2021 in Monaco 

World Ranking for 2021 Season: #2

Strengths: Closing speed and resilience

Sifan Hassan has a dominating kick and unmatched resilience. She won the gold medal in the 5,000m Monday night only 12 hours after winning her round of the 1500m, a race in which her fall in the final lap required accelerating her way to a blistering 43-second final 300m. In other words, she can close like a starving lion. Psychologically, Hassan is also a ferocious competitor.

Weaknesses: Too competitive?

But what makes you great can also be your downfall. Hassan’s primary weakness may be her inability to reign in her predatory instincts, thus resulting in unnecessary energy expenditure. For example, she didn’t need to give it her all to win her first round of the 1500; she only needed to be in the top six. She also could have relaxed more in the semifinal round of the event, but again she raced to win.

That competitive drive drove her to attempt the triple in this Olympic Games, but it means she’ll be running with two more races in her legs (the 5,000m preliminaries and 5,000m finals) than her competitors in the 1500m final. 

“Many people think I’m crazy. I also think I’m crazy,” Hassan told reporters earlier this week. “Life is not only about the gold and the winning and the fame. It’s also about following your heart. I told my manager, ‘I’m going to do three, I don’t care what happens, I’m going to do it.’”

Potential Race Strategy  

Hassan’s strategy has typically been to rely on her supreme ability to close by sitting behind her competition — often falling all the way to the back of the back at the start — until the last 300m, where she accelerates and chases down her prey. However, in this race Kenya’s Faith Kipyegon matches or betters her in finishing speed. We may see Hassan take out the race from the start, trying to use her longer-race endurance to create an unclosable gap between her and the rest of the field. 

If she can do it, she’ll have won two gold medals in the same Olympic Games (and will have 24 hours to regroup for the 10,000m).  

Faith Kipyegon— Kenya

Faith Kipyegon running.
Like Hassan, Faith Kipyegon has indomitable finishing speed. In her heat of the first 1500m Olympic semifinal, she finished victoriously in 3:56.80. Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The primary challenge to Hassan is Faith Kipyegon, who will be defending her title as the 2016 Olympic 1500m gold medalist. While in 2019 Kipyegon lost her pet event to Hassan, she’s looking stronger than ever this year. The two dueled at the distance in Italy back in June, with both athletes running a 3:53 and Hassan coming in first. But a month later in Monaco, Kipyegon defeated Hassan in a time of 3:51.07 — a Kenyan 1500m record and the fastest time run this year

The stage is set on Friday to be an epic battle between the two middle distance greats.

Age: 27

Notable Accolades

  • 2019 World Championships silver medalist — 1500m
  • 2017 World Cross Country Championships gold medalist 
  • 2017 World Championships gold medalist — 1500m
  • 2016 Olympic gold medalist  — 1500m
  • 2015 World Championships silver medalist — 1500m
  • Kenyan national 1500m record holder (3:51.07)

Best Times

Personal best: 3:51.07 — 2021 in Monaco 

Season best: 3:51.07 — 2021 in Monaco

World Ranking for 2021 Season: #1 

Strengths: Speed

Like Hassan, Kipyegon has indomitable finishing speed. In her heat of the first 1500m semifinal, she finished victoriously in 3:56.80.

Weaknesses: Overspecialization

Hassan has better PR’s at distances shorter (1:56.81 in the 800 as compared to  Kipyegon’s 1:57.68) and much longer (Hassan’s best 5k is 14:22.12 while Kipyegon’s is 14:31.95.) If Hassan can exploit that in either direction, shaking up the typical 1500m script, she could have the edge.

Potential Race Strategy  

If there is one person who can out-kick Hassan, it will be Kipyegon. Watch for her to sit on Hassan’s heels, as she did in Monaco, let the Dutchwoman set the pace, then try to close on her.

Laura Muir Great Britain

Laura Muir racing as a top competitor in the Olympic W 1500m
Laura Muir of Team Great Britain competes in the Women’s 1500m semifinal on day twelve of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Photo: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

Scotland’s heroine Laura Muir is Team Great Britain’s best hope at securing a medal in a distance event. She already owns three top-five World Championship finishes at this point in her career and will pose a legitimate threat to the two favorites — Hassan and Kipyegon.

She’ll be looking to redeem herself after a disappointing run at the 2016 Rio Olympics 1500m when she chased down Kipyegon and Ethiopia’s Genzebe Dibaba on a hell-bent mission for gold before fading to 7th. Muir came up short again in the 2019 World Championships in Doha where she finished 5th in the 1500m. 

Age: 28

Notable Accolades 

  • 2019 European Indoor Championships Gold medalist — 1500m, 3,000m
  • 2018 World Indoor Championships Silver medalist —1500m
  • 2018 World Indoor Championships Bronze medalist — 3,000m
  • 2018 European Championships Gold medalist — 1500m 
  • 2017 European Indoor Championships Gold medalist — 1500m, 3,000m

Best Times 

PB: 3:55.22 — Paris, 2016 

SB: 3:55.59 — Firenze, 2021 

World Ranking for 2021 Season: #4

Strengths: Speed, experience, and tactical awareness. 

Of the top contenders for gold, Muir has the fastest 800m time of the group: 1:56.73, run earlier this summer in Monaco. 

She is coming into these Olympic Games with far more experience than she had in the 2016 Rio Olympics when she had only raced the 1500m at the global championships one time. Now she has a multitude of various championships under her belt and a deeper understanding of race tactics. 

Weaknesses: Long-race Endurance  

Muir comes in with a significantly slower 5,000m personal best (14:52.07) than either Hassan or Kipyegon. Her range is narrow, specializing in the 800m and 1,500, whereas Hassan is dominant in distances 800m through 10,000. Another weakness for the Scot may be her confidence in major world competitions.

Probable Strategy  

Asked earlier what pace and tactics she may play on in the final of the 1500m, Muir was staying poker-faced. 

“I’m keeping my cards close to my chest for that one,” she added. “I’ll talk to you about it after the final!” 

Given her 800m speed, it’s likely that Muir will employ a classic sit-and-kick strategy on Hassan and Kipyegon — if they let that happen with a slower pace over the first 3 laps. 

Potential Upset: Elle Purrier St. Pierre — U.S.A.

The U.S. hopes for a medal are led by Elle Purrier St. Pierre, who will benefit if the pace is fast from the outset in the final. It’s unlikely that she will seriously challenge Hassan, Kipyegon, or Tsegay for the gold — but not impossible.

Elle Purrier winning the 1500.
EUGENE, OREGON – JUNE 21: Elle St. Pierre Purrier owns the American indoor 2-mile record (9:10.28 set in February of 2021) as well as the American indoor mile record (4:16.85 set in 2020).  Photo: Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Age: 26 

Notable Accolades

  • 2019 World Championships finalist — 5,000m 
  • Current NACAC Record holder — Indoor mile (2020) 
  • American indoor record holder — Indoor two mile (2021) 

Best Times 

PB: 3:58.03  — U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene, Oregon, 2021 

SB: 3:58.03 — U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene, Oregon, 2021 

World Ranking for 2021 Season: #6

Strengths: Balance and consistency 

Purrier St. Pierre’s greatest strength is her dominant balance of speed and stamina. She owns the American indoor 2-mile record (9:10.28 set in February of 2021) as well as the American indoor mile record (4:16.85 set in 2020). And while her best times don’t appear competitive enough to genuinely challenge Hassan and Kipyegon, she’s improved year after year and may have momentum on her side in the final. She holds the sixth best time this year (3:58.03), but it’s 7 seconds slower than Kipyegon’s 3:51.07.

Furthermore, Purrier St. Pierre will go into the finals with significantly less pressure than the top three medal contenders, which may give her a psychological advantage — she has medals to win, not lose.

Weaknesses: Experience 

Unlike Hassan, Kipyegon, and Muir, this will be Purrier St. Pierre’s first time competing at an Olympic Game. 

Potential Race Strategy  

Given that Purrier St. Pierre has never raced in an Olympic Games, let alone an Olympic final, it’s likely that she’ll employ a conservative strategy tomorrow. While Hassan, Kipyegon, and Muir will almost certainly be competing for a gold medal, Purrier St. Pierre told Women’s Running that her ultimate goal is to win a medal, which could look like running solidly fast and picking off one or more of the top three after they beat each other up. 

At a Glance Comparison

Name

Nation

Age

PB

SB

World Rank
(by 2021 best time)

Strengths

Weaknesses

Sifan Hassan

Netherlands

28

3:51.95

3:53.60

#2

Closing speed

Too many races

Faith Kipyegon

Kenya

27

3:51.07

3:53.60

#1

Closing speed

Overspecialization

Laura Muir

Great Britain

28

3:55.22

3:55.59

#4

Tactical awareness

Long-race endurance

Elle Purrier St. Pierre

U.S.A

26

3:58.03

3:58.03

#6

Balance and consistency

Inexperience