Individual feats of strength and athleticism are common at the Olympics, but they may also result in heartbreaking moments of despair. In the opening heats of the women’s 1500 meter run in Tokyo on Sunday evening (Monday early in Tokyo), we got both of those in one incredible lap when Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands achieved something genuinely incredible.
Hassan, who is doing something truly insane by competing in the 1500, 5000, and 10000 meter races at these Olympics, is one of the favorites in the 1500, and with a 5000 meter race later that night, her goal in the first heat was to simply coast in the back before springing into action to get into the top 6 to qualify for the semifinals. The first three laps went smoothly, but just as they passed the finish line to begin the final lap, Hassan was tripped up and fell to the track due to a chain reaction of collisions in front of her.
With only 400 meters to go, this would normally be the end of the race, but Hassan stood up and began mowing down the field, one by one, like a Terminator, eventually catching the lead group and winning the heat.
It’s a fantastic effort and one of the most extraordinary things we’ll see from a runner at these Games. After the race, Hassan walked right past the media to get to rest and recovery as quickly as possible because she has another 3-plus miles to run later that night, but you could see the disappointment on her face as she walked to the track, knowing she would have to expend a lot more energy than she had planned just to make the semis. Still, getting up and making it happen is incredible, and hopefully that act didn’t sap too much of her stamina for her upcoming lengthy races.