There is no accounting, and there never will be, for the sad and glorious twist of this sporting life - and if you every doubted that, consider this morning the colliding worlds of Kelly Holmes and Paula Radcliffe.
Radcliffe, darling of the nation until she suffered her little death in the broiling streets here in Sunday's marathon yesterday showed the world her pain. And then, as she retreated into some recess of pain there was an image of 34-year-old Holmes that will never die.
Holmes, often a tetchy figure as she battled, it seemed, with the eternal status of a nearly woman, gave us an extraordinary picture of something utterly different. It may well be some time before she grasps that after the silver and the bronze, and all the pain, there was finally gold.
That was her expression when she survived, with unforgettable grit, the blanket finish which left her friend, mentor and training partner Maria Mutola suddenly a loser. Not that the fate of her formidable friend will be of any concern to Holmes as the sun rises over the Acropolis today.
She has, after all declared, "Everyone is my rival when I step on the track. I don't go out there and think I have to be the best in Britain. I have always wanted more than that."
Now she has it in a way that would have been scarcely credible before the onset of last night's 800 metres final.
Holmes came as one of the defeated, the saddest collection of frontline British athletes many of us could ever recall. She was to run out the string of her career that had been distinguished more than anything by sheer determination.
Holmes was game. She battled, but she would never be touched by the grace and the glory of one of the great ones. That at least was how we saw it. Last night the hearts, and the expression - of this gold medal winner made fools of us all.Reuse content