TOKYO (AP) — Everyone should have known it would be hard to keep distance runner Sifan Hassan down for long at these Olympics.
The world’s busiest speed demon scored not one, but two remarkable victories Monday. Her gold-medal run in the women’s 5,000 meters came a mere 11 hours after she picked herself up from a scary fall on the final lap of her 1,500-meter heat to not only finish that race — but win it, as well.
Those two wins kept Hassan, the Ethiopian-born 29-year-old who now competes for The Netherlands, very much in the mix for not one, not two, but three medals — in the 1,500, the 5,000 and the 10,000.
It’s a never-before-attempted journey that will require eight races over six days.
It’s the germ of a “crazy idea” — her words — that some might say elevates her into GOAT status simply for trying.
It was not helped one bit by the sort of fall that takes most runners out of races, let alone chases after history.
Running from the back as is her preference, Hassan was gearing up to make her move in the 1,500 morning race as the phalanx of 15 runners approached the start of the final lap.
But Kenya’s Edinah Jebitok, stumbled and tumbled to the ground just in front of her. Hassan tried to save things by hurdling over her fallen opponent, but instead tripped and did half a barrel roll.
Most runners might have called it a day. Hassan was down for about two seconds, then jumped up and began a most amazing comeback — from second-to-last to first in the span of about 60 seconds.
Exhausting work, and the track and field world waited through lunch and dinner to see what Hassan would have left in the tank when she returned for her first gold-medal race.
Lingering in the middle and back of the pack for the first 11 laps on a track still soaked by an earlier rainstorm, she kicked things in with about 250 meters left. She won the race going away, in 14 minutes, 36.79 seconds — a pedestrian time for her, but amazing considering the circumstances.
Hassan was 1.57 seconds ahead of Kenya’s Hellen Obiri, while Ethiopia’s Gudaf Tsegay took bronze.
Next, Hassan gets a whole day off. The next 1,500 heat is scheduled for Wednesday with the 1,500 and 10K finals set for back-to-back days on Friday and Saturday.