Canada's Stafford sisters advance to women's 1,500-metre semifinals
Gabriela DeBues-Stafford, Canadian record-holder, wins 1st heat in Tokyo
Toronto sisters Gabriela DeBues-Stafford and Lucia Stafford are headed to the women's 1,500-metre semifinals after impressive performances in their respective heats.
DeBues-Stafford, the Canadian record-holder in the distance at three minutes 56.12 seconds, won the first heat of the day with a time of 4:03.70.
But the 25-year-old, in her second Olympics, was outdone by younger sister Lucia, 22, who ran a personal-best 4:03.52 to finish seventh in the fastest and final heat.
The top six in each of the three heats, plus the next six fastest, booked their spots in Wednesday's semifinals. The final goes on Friday.
WATCH | DeBues-Stafford wins heat:
Despite Monday's results, DeBues-Stafford remains the better bet of the two to reach the podium amid the stacked middle-distance field.
"I have my eyes set on something big in the finals, so I'm happy that I got the first round done and I felt really good doing it," DeBues-Stafford said.
She added the heats were more competitive than she expected.
"I didn't know what the time was and I thought, 'Oh, this is feeling like a little bit of effort.' I wasn't expecting it to be that fast. I felt like 4.03 and I felt really good, and to do it from the front and to control it the way I did. I'm very pleased with that."
WATCH | DeBues-Stafford eyeing Tokyo podium:
WATCH | Breakthrough: Gabriela Debues-Stafford (My Time):
Hassan makes incredible recovery
The Stafford sisters avoided the drama of the second heat, when podium favourite and top-ranked Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands got tangled with a competitor and tumbled to the deck. Hassan was beginning her unprecedented quest for a 1,500, 5000 and 10,000 triple.
The fall dropped Hassan to 11th after 1,200 metres, but she quickly recovered, surging past the front of the pack in the final 300 to win her heat at 4:04.17.
WATCH | Hassan tripped, recovers to win heat:
Hassan has qualified to run in the 5,000 final later Monday at the Olympic Stadium, where she's expected to battle with two-time world champion Hellen Obiri of Kenya for gold.
Her grueling schedule means she will have to run six races in eight days in the Tokyo heat and humidity, including the two races on Monday and the 1,500 and 10,000 finals on back-to-back days on Friday and Saturday.
Canada's Natalia Hawthorn, who was involved in the mixup with Hassan, ran 4:08.04 and failed to advance.
Reigning world champion Faith Kipyegon of Kenya won her heat at 4:01.40, the best time of the day.
Emmanuel into 200 semis
Meanwhile, Canada's Crystal Emmanuel also won her heat to reach the semifinals of the women's 200 metres.
Emmanuel, 29, finished ahead of Jamaica's Elaine Thompson-Herah, who won 100-metre gold just two days ago. The Toronto native posted a season-best time of 22.74 seconds. She owns the Canadian record in the distance at 22.50.
WATCH | Emmanuel surges past Thompson-Herah:
The semifinals are set to go later Monday in Tokyo with the final on Tuesday.
"I'm really happy because I executed a good turn, came home and just relaxed so I'm really happy with it. I know I have to bring my [A-game] tonight, but I think I'm ready," Emmanuel said after the race.
Tokyo marks Emmanuel's third Olympics. She placed 21st in London and 23rd in Rio in the 200.
"I try to go in with a clear mind and not focus on what people have to say or what is going on in the media world. I black out from that [and] focus on what is in the game plan coming into the Olympics. There is no added pressure. I know what I need to do to make history and I just need my body to go with my brain," she said.
Two-time American champion Jenna Prandini posted the best qualifying time of 22.56.
With files from The Associated Press