No harm in trying, as mad as it was, Sifan Hassan denied an unprecedented distance running treble at the second last step and only after she helped make it the fastest women's 1,500 metres in Olympic history.
With the 5,000m gold medal already in her tracksuit pocket from Monday night, the Dutch woman toed the line inside the Olympic Stadium knowing she'd need to run the legs off Faith Kipyegon to have any chance of winning this.
Kenya’s defending Olympic champion has the most formidable finishing kick in this business, and Kipyegon proved it yet again. Hassan hit the front after half a lap and set a searing pace – 62.8 seconds for the first lap – and there was no let up.
Kipyegon bided her time before kicking past with 220m to go, winning in that new Olympic record of 3:53.11, with Laura Muir also racing past around the last bend to go to take silver in a British record of 3:54.50, with Hassan holding on for bronze with 3:55.86. Tactically Muir ran the perfect race to win her first Olympic medal.
“Whether I got a medal or whether I didn’t get a medal so it was always going to end in tears, but I’m just so happy it was happy tears,” said Muir, before laying suitable praise on Kipyegon as the best ever.
Meanwhile, between heats and finals, Hassan just has 25 of her 61 and a quarter laps in all to run in Saturday’s 10,000m final, to make it two from three. No woman in Olympic history has even dared to attempt the 1,500m/5,000m/10,000m treble, her opponents in that 10,000, including Letesenbet Gidey from Ethiopia, who broke the world record in June, two days after Hassan did.
Still Hassan says it’s not just the possible three gold medals that inspire her. “For me it is crucial to follow my heart,” she said. “Doing that is far more important than gold medals.”
If that race more or less went to form, Italy winning of the men’s 4x100m relay final, gunning down the British at the finish by .01 of a second, after Jamaica messed up their first exchange, certainly didn’t. It also won Italy a fifth gold medal in athletics so far, to go with the men’s 100m, high jump, and both men’s and women’s 20km walks
After a Jamaican clean sweep in the women's 100, Elaine Thompson-Herah, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Shericka Jackson combined with Briana Williams to add the 4x100m gold in a national record of 41.02.
Shaunae Miller-Uibo from Bahamas retained her 400m title in a lifetime best of 48.36, one night after Steven Gardiner also won the men's title for the Bahamas. Miller-Uibo is just the second woman in Olympic history to win back-to-back titles at 400m after Marie-Jose Perec, the 1992 and 1996 champion from France.
Setting herself a new Olympic record in that race was the American Allyson Felix, who in winning the bronze medal in 49.46, won her 10th Olympic medal, one more than the previous Olympic record of nine by sprinter Merline Ottey.
Her 49.46 is also the fastest time she’s run since 2015, before she gave birth to her daughter, the fastest ever for a 35-year-old, and an individual medal in her fifth Olympics, which began in Athens 2004. The greatest of her time questionably.
Joshua Cheptegei from Uganda struck back from his 10,000 silver medal to win 5,000m gold in 12:58.15. The American Paul Chelimo took bronze in 12:59.05, although the quest for a first American gold medal win on the track in a men's event could end in the very last of them, after they won their 4x400m semi-final in 2:57.77, the fastest ever heat/semi time at a major championship.
The last men's distance race of Tokyo 2020 takes place 800km north in Sapporo in the early hours of Sunday local time, Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya looking to become only the third man to defend a men's marathon title. Stephen Scullion, Paul Pollock and Kevin Seaward will all line up for Ireland.
“All of us,” said Kipchoge, “will be in the same frying pan.”
In cruel and gruelling conditions there on Friday morning, Brendan Boyce finished in 10th place in the last ever edition of the Olympic 50km walk. The 34-year-old from Donegal, competing in his third Olympics, put his experience to good use with a finely judged effort as countless others wilted in the early morning heat. Dawid Tomala of Poland held on to capture the Olympic title in just his third race over the distance.