In a stunning women’s 10,000m championship, Ethiopia’s Almaz Ayana shattered the world record by running 29:17.46 to win 10K gold at the Olympic Games.
Silver was earned by Vivian Cheruiyot in 29:32.53 and bronze was claimed by defending Olympic champion Tirunesh Dibaba, who closed in 29:42.56.
U.S. Olympic Trials champion Molly Huddle finished sixth overall and broke the American record in the process. Huddle finished in 30:13.17, which broke the previous record by a whopping nine seconds.
The race was destined to make history from the beginning as the competitors established a fast championship showdown from the gun.
Alice Aprot Nawowuna of Kenya established an early lead among the competition with a 3:01 initial 1000m split. The world junior bronze medalist from Kenya took the field through 2000m in 5:55 and was followed by the Ethiopian powerhouse duo of world champion Ayana and defending Olympic champion Dibaba. The early move would set a precedent for the blazing fast pace that led the 10K championship.
Nawowuna’s front-running and brisk pace established an elite lead group early on, which included a loaded field of contenders. U.S. Trials winner Huddle attempted to run with the lead group, but was unable to hold the pace and found herself running alone around 12 minutes into the race. However, running alone wouldn’t phase Huddle in the slightest.
Meanwhile, Nawowuna took the field through a blazing fast 5K split of 14:46. Huddle followed nine seconds behind in 14:55, just over 10 seconds slower than her American record 5K time of 14:42.
As if the pace wasn’t fast enough, Ayana shot to the front and established an even faster pace just after the 5K mark. With nine laps to go, Ayana found herself with a 20 meter lead on the field and no challengers in sight. The only woman who attempted to come close was reigning world champion Cheriuyot, who still trailed Ayana by a sizable amount.
Ayana powered through 8K in 23:25, considerably faster than the world record pace set by Wang Junxia of China in 1993. On her way to setting the world record of 29:31, Junxia ran 23:59 for 8K.
In just her second track 10K ever, Ayana ran her way into the record books with a world record of 29:17.46, 15 seconds faster than silver medalist Cheruiyot and 42 seconds faster than Junxia’s long-standing mark