Ethiopian long-distance runner Almaz Ayana smashed the world record to win the women’s Olympic 10,000 metres race on Friday, finishing in 29 minutes and 17.45 seconds.
In addition to winning the first gold medal for an African team in the 2016 Olympics, the 24-year-old beat the previous record, in place for the last 23 years, by a remarkable 14.46 seconds.
Her time was 14 seconds inside the 29:31.78 set by China’s Wang Junxia in 1993.
It was the first time in seven years that a female athlete had run 10,000m in under 30 minutes and the first four all achieved the feat. The first 13 women across the line clocked personal bests, including five national records.
Kenya’s world 10,000m champion Vivian Cheruiyot tried in vain to keep up with Ayana but had to settle for silver while Ethiopian Tirunesh Dibaba, the defending Olympic champion, grabbed bronze.
All three women ran inside the old Olympic 10,000m record. Cheruiyot, Kenya’s most decorated female athlete, also fell short in the 2012 London Games where she took bronze, meaning east African country’s wait for its first women’s 10,000m gold medallist continues.
The 31-year-old Dibaba, who returned in 2016 from a two-year layoff following the birth of her son, was seeking to become the first woman in Olympic history to win an individual athletics event three times in a row.
After crossing the finish line, Ayana raised her arms in triumph and then crossed her heart as fans cheers from the stand. She will now turn her attention to her preferred 5,000m distance, in which she is favourite to win and become only the second woman after Dibaba to claim gold in both the 5,000 and 10,000 in the same Game.
Paula Radcliffe, the world’s fastest female marathoner, told the BBC, “I ‘m not sure that I can understand that. When I saw the world record set in 1993, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. And Ayana has absolutely blitzed that time.”
Source: Reuters/ BBC/NBC