Sifan Hassan, an Ethiopian-born Dutch athlete, won the London Marathon on Sunday (April 23), surprising everyone as she struggled with a painful hip and was nearly hit by a motorbike on the streets of the city. She finished in 2 hours, 18 minutes and 33 seconds.
The 30-year-old is known for her strength and determination. In 2021 she told the Dutch newspaper NRC that her favourite saying from the Koran is “For indeed, with hardship will be ease.” Hassan is a devout Muslim, and she fasted while training during Ramadan, which ended at the weekend just before the marathon.
At the delayed Tokyo Olympics in 2021, she won three medals, but all in shorter distances. Hassan was relatively inexperienced as a marathon runner. She said before the race that she wasn’t even sure she would finish, let alone win.
Hassan’s difficult youth is often said to be what gave her the strength of character needed to pull off her marathon debut against considerable odds.
Born in Adama, Oromia, in Ethiopia, she was an only child raised by her mother and grandmother. In 2008, aged 15, she was put on a plane to the Netherlands by her mother.
There she lived in an asylum seekers’ home for minors in Zuidlaren, where she recalls crying every day, the news agency Agence France Presse reports. Before long, she began training with an athletics club and won races while also training to be a nurse. She became a Dutch citizen in 2013.