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Ethiopia’s Almaz Ayana smashed the World record to win the Olympic 10,000 metres title on Friday, blowing away the competition in one of the greatest ever long-distance races at the Games.
In only her second competitive 10,000m, Ayana dominated from the start and halfway through the race she surged away from the leading pack, injecting staggering pace to finish in 29 minutes 17.45 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.
Ayana will now turn her attention to her preferred 5,000m distance, in which she is the 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 Games.
A major shock of the day came in the men’s discus throw when reigning champion Robert Harting (Germany) failed to qualify for the final, finishing 15th in the qualifiers.
The 31-year-old failed to find any mark right through his first two attempts, fouling both, and in the third and final throw could only muster an effort of 62.21m which signalled his elimination from the fray.
The bit of good news for the Harting family was the progress made by Robert’s younger brother, Christoph, into the final with a throw of 65.41m, which placed him third behind Poland’s Piotr Malachowski (65.89m) and Austrian Lukas Weisshanidinger (65.86m).
It was a disappointing day for India as none of its three athletes, seen in action during the wet session, were able to live up to expectations before crashing out.
In the men’s discus throw, the burly Vikas Gowda was nowhere near his best of 66.28m as he failed in his attempt to get into the final of the event for a second consecutive time.
The Mysuru-born athlete was placed eighth in London 2012 but on this day could only manage a distance of 58.99, off his second attempt, before being pushed to a poor 28th position in qualification.
With the automatic qualifying mark set at 65.50m, the Indian began with a poor 57.59m before touching his day’s best and then slumped again as he completed his sequence with a throw of 58.70m.
Jinson Johnson, making his Olympic debut, was placed fifth in heat 3 of the men’s 800m with a time of 1:47.27, which was a far cry of the 1:45.98 he had recorded while gaining qualification last month.
The Kerala athlete eventually was placed 25th in the overall rankings.
Likewise, the story was no different for Manpreet Singh Sr. in the women’s shot put qualifiers as the Punjabi athlete came a cropper with a throw of 17.06s as against the qualification mark of 18.40m.
Manpreet started off with a 16.68m before getting to her day’s best and then rounding off her campaign with a weak effort of 16.76m off her third and final attempt.