Almaz Ayana of Ethiopia delivered a stunning start to track and field at the Olympics with a world record in the 10,000 metres on Friday, wiping away the competition just after the halfway point and striding to victory with effortless grace.
After crossing the finish line, she raised her hands in triumph and came to a stop, fully realizing what she had done: Her time of 29 minutes, 17.45, had shaved 14.33 seconds off the 1993 mark of China’s Wang Junxia.
At age 24, she beat the best from a previous generation. Kenya’s Vivian Cheruiyot, 32, a four-time long- distance world champion came in second, a massive 15.18 seconds behind. Ayana’s 31-year-old teammate Tirunesh Dibaba took bronze.
It was a bittersweet moment for Dibaba, who had been trying to become the first woman to win three individual Olympic track titles in a row. She never stood a chance for victory but fought to get another medal for Ethiopia.
Dibaba and Ayana held hands afterward – a symbolic transition to a new era.
If David Rudisha of Kenya provided an iconic moment four years ago in the London Olympics with his world record, it could be tough to find a better race in Rio, with nine more days to go.
Today’s conditions were ideal – cool and overcast with a damp track from a morning rain. But the 60,000- capacity Olympic stadium was only a quarter full to see Ayana’s accomplishment.