Sifan Hassan also went on to win gold in the 5,000-meter race about 12 hours after the fall.
Dutch distance runner Sifan Hassan was at the start of the final lap of a qualifying 1500-meter heat when the runner in front of her, Kenya's Edinah Jebitok, stumbled and fell. For a brief moment, it looked as though Hassan would be able to leap over her fallen opponent and maintain her stride. However, as the rest of the pack glided away, the 28-year-old lost her footing and went crashing into the ground. While most runners would've accepted defeat and walked off the track at that point, what followed was one of the most remarkable 60-second laps in racing. Getting back on her feet within seconds, Hassan broke out in a dead sprint, moving from the back of the pack and blazing past runner after runner.
FYI: her name is Sifan Hassan, and she did this at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. https://t.co/lJF7S9q8Rg— This girl is on Pfizer 🇵🇸 (@Eulogs) August 3, 2021
On the final straightaway, the athlete surged past five of the world's fastest runners and crossed the finish line first. "She closed in a 60-second lap with a fall, so she probably ran about a 55," Canada's 5,000-meter runner Andrea Seccafien told AP. "So, yeah, she's on another level for sure." Hassan admitted that the thought of calling it quits crossed her mind for a split second after her tumble. She could have filed a protest and potentially been moved on to the next round since the spill really wasn't her fault. "But I told myself 'No.' I didn't want to regret it later. I don't want all the excuses," she said.
Never give up!— #TokyoOlympics (@NBCOlympics) August 2, 2021
Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands tripped with one lap to go in a preliminary heat of the women's 1500m but got back up to continue the race.
She ended up winning her heat to advance. #TokyoOlympics pic.twitter.com/gU536XvyHg
As viewers marveled at Hassan's incredible recovery, the track and field world waited with bated breath to see how she would perform in the 5,000-meter later that day after exerting herself so much. However, according to The Washington Post, just about 12 hours after taking a nasty spill on the track, the Ethiopian-born runner kicked into high gear yet again and won the 5,000-meter gold medal Monday night with a time of 14:36.79.
Dutch star Sifan Hassan (who is attempting to win gold in the 1,500, 5K and 10K) falls just before the bell in the first round of the women’s 1,500m.— Chris Chavez (@ChrisChavez) August 2, 2021
BUT…she gets back up and wins her heat in 4:05.17.
WHAT?! #TokyoOlympics pic.twitter.com/riUa5sjZxJ
“Just finish the race," she said she told herself later, ahead of the 5,000 final. "Just finish this race, and I want to focus on the 10,000 and 1,500 kilometers... But I have to do my best." Hassan, who became the first Netherlands female athlete to medal in a distance event, admitted that the fall and near-loss in the heat earlier that day had exhausted her. "It was taking away my confidence because I was so tired... I couldn't calm myself down," she said. "In the evening, I was so tired. I didn't even warm up very well. I just — a couple laps... I was thinking no way, gold."
Sifan Hassan going for an unprecedented treble of distance runs in athletics. She's already fallen to get back up & beat the field. One gold snagged, can she get two more? The chase is on.@germanotes in @FT on the emerging story of #Tokyo2020 https://t.co/Ozoj96nLaz— Murad Ahmed (@muradahmed) August 3, 2021
Thanks to her two wins on Monday, Hassan is still in the running to make history with golds in the 1,500 meter, 5,000 meter, and 10,000 meter—a never-before-attempted Olympic journey that will require six races over eight days. "To have a fall and remain to have that composure and come out here and win the 5,000 is pretty crazy," said American Karissa Schweizer, who finished 11th in the 5,000. "I can't imagine. I'm just wrapping my head around the five and the 10, and she has a whole other three heats in there. Pretty crazy. It will be obviously incredible if she can pull that off."
Hassan will race in a 1,500 semifinal Wednesday and if she advances to the 1500m final on Friday, she will have less than 24 hours to recover for the 10,000m final on Saturday. When asked Monday night what her strategy might be to win gold in the upcoming races, she said: "After what happened this morning, all the drama, I don't care. Step by step, I'll do my best."