Wed | Aug 15, 2018

Ethiopian shatters 10,000m record

Published:Saturday | August 13, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Ethiopia's Almaz Ayana celebrates winning the 10,000 metres in world record time at the 2016 Summer Olympics at the Olympic stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil yesterday.


What track and field really needed was a Usain Bolt-like jolt to steer the conversation away from the endless string of crime, punishment and doping that nearly sank the sport over the past year.

What it got was a 10,000-metre world record from an Ethiopian who considers it her second-favourite distance, and a race that will go down as one of the best ever run at the Olympics.

While Bolt waits in the wings another day, Almaz Ayana opened the Olympic track meet yesterday by circling the 25 laps in 29 minutes, 17.45 seconds to shatter a 23-year-old record by more than 14 seconds.

"This was not my plan," Ayana said.

How impressive was this race?

The 24-year-old Ayana, who had limited experience running 10Ks on tracks and is really considered a 5K specialist, won by more than 15 seconds. She was halfway through her victory lap while the largest pack in the field of 37 women was making its way across the finish line.

Spurred on by her pace, 18 women ran lifetime bests. Eight national records were set, including one by American Molly Huddle, who finished sixth. And silver medalist Vivian Cheruiyot, bronze medalist Tirunesh Dibaba and fourth-place finisher Alice Aprot Nawowuna recorded the third-, fourth- and fifth-fastest times in history, behind only the new record holder and the previous one, Wang Junxia of China.

The confluence of fast times on a cool, rain-dampened track - perfect running weather - could help blunt the inevitable questions about how someone with little experience at the distance from a country that has spent its share of time under the doping microscope could shatter a generation-old record that, itself, is under heavy scrutiny.

Wang's 1993 record broke the previous mark by nearly 42 seconds. Track's governing body, the IAAF, has been investigating claims that suggest Wang was part of a state-sponsored doping programme in her country in the 1990s.

Confronted with the improbability of her record, Ayana's answer was simple.

"No. 1, I did my training, specifically in the 5 and 10," she said in comments translated to English. "My doping is Jesus. Otherwise, I'm crystal clear."