Women’s 10000m final was the first gold medal event in the track-and-field action on Friday. In the end, it proved to be a remarkable race, one of the very best in its long athletic history, where the top four finishers clocked a time of less than 30 minutes. Before the event began, all eyes were on Beijing and London gold medalist Tirunesh Dibaba of Ethiopia. She and her fans expected the third successive gold medal from her but it was Dibaba’s Ethiopian compatriot Almaz Ayana, who ran like a woman possessed soon after the pistol. Watching the top bunch, it became immediately apparent that the race was destined to make history. And it did. Ayana established herself into a nice rhythm, even though she trailed Kenya’s Alice Aprot Nawowuna until the halfway stage. But Ayana’s smooth and easy demeanor indicated that she was committed for something spectacular. When Ayana crossed the finish line, she scripted a new chapter in the annals of women’s 10000m event. She broke the 23-year old record of China’s Wang Junxia, who had clocked 29:31.78 at Beijing in September 1993. Ayana’s time of 29:17.45 was more than 14 seconds faster than Wang’s. Towards the end of the race, Ayana was alone at the top, way ahead of the second-placed Kenyan Vivian Cheruiyot, who missed the old world record by a whisker and finished more than 15 seconds behind Ayana. Tirunesh Dibaba failed to realize her third gold-medal dream but still managed a bronze medal. Kenyan Nawowuna, who led the field until 5000m, had to settle for fourth place.
Track-and-field action Rio began on Friday August 12 with several events at preliminary stages. Women’s 10000m was the only final in which 37 athletes participated and 35 completed the race. From the moment it started, the race appeared destined for a historic finish. The 10000m race puts heavy demand on athletes, who should have exceptional levels of aerobic endurance besides mental strength, speed-planning and stamina. The event was especially important for Ethiopia’s Tirunesh Dibaba since she had won it in Beijing and London. But very soon, it became clear that another Ethiopian Almaz Ayana had planned something else. As they began, Kenyan youngster Alice Aprot Nawowuna established an early lead and kept herself ahead until the halfway mark. Unlike the short sprints, long-distance events require stage-wise planning of acceleration and conservation of stamina. Therefore, even if Dibaba was way behind, everyone thought she would break away from the pack at some time. That happened only with the last few laps left but by then; Ayana was long gone to the top. Ayana maintained a consistent pace and never looked in trouble. Those following her also added to their speeds and in the end, even much lower-placed athletes finished with their Personal Bests or achieved National Records.
Almaz Ayana created history by breaking the September 1993 record of 29:31.78, hitherto held by China’s Wang Junxia. And it wasn’t merely a touch and go as the new champion took off 14 seconds off Wang’s record. The Ethiopian went in front after 5000m and enhanced her pace. With 9 laps remaining, Ayana opened a 20m lead over her next competitor. There was no semblance of challenge as she raced away in solitary splendor. The closest to Ayana was the 2015 Beijing World Champion Kenya’s Vivian Cheriuyot . But the Kenyan trailed by a proverbial mile. When Ayana crossed the 8000m mark, it immediately became clear that the World Record would be broken on Friday. She was certainly doing it faster than Wang had done at that stage 23 years ago.
When the crunch moment came, the 24-year-old Ayana crushed Wang’s world record by more than 14 seconds to finish in 29:17:45 minutes. Kenya’s Vivian Cheriuyot improved on her London performance, where she had taken the bronze. She left that medal for the third-placed Tirunesh Dibaba. Cheriuyot missed Wang’s world record in her 29:32.53 finish for a new Kenyan record. Third-placed Dibaba was a lot slower in 29:42:56 but that was still Dibaba’s personal best time. The quality of race can be gauged by the fact that, including Dibaba, 10 athletes achieved their personal bests. Besides, 7 national records were surpassed in the amazing race.