The first medal event of the track and field portion of the 2016 Olympics was not one to be missed as a World Record and an American Record were smashed.
Most notably is Almaz Ayana, who ran 29:17.45 to smash the previous World Record set in 1993 by Wang Junxia in 1993. She ran 14 second faster than that mark that Junxia admitted was aided by a state-sponsored doping program that tainted that entire era of distance running.
As Nick Zaccardi notes: the top 13 finishers in the event set personal bests.
The top 13 finishers set personal bests. Shades of 2012 Olympic men's 800m. pic.twitter.com/Tcec14iItc— Nick Zaccardi (@nzaccardi) August 12, 2016
Ayana had flirted with the 5k world record a couple times in the Diamond League circuit earlier this season, but hadn’t had much exposure to the 10k, so many, including our own jduncandaisy, were a bit skeptical about her chances to win. That looks foolish now.
Ayana took over the race at 5k after Alice Nawowuna set the race up with a blistering early pace that separated the field into a top 8 within the first 2k. Runners were getting lapped as early as 3000m in. This isn’t your all-comers track meet, people. These are the Olympics. Runners don’t get lapped that early.
Ayana made her move at 5k and ran solo the rest of the way, but never really left any doubt about her chances at the world record. She came through 5k at 14:46, so right on pace to set the record. But she ran 14:31 for the second 5k—which we should note is only 20 seconds slower than the World Record in that event—to blow away the field. She smashed the previous WR by 14 seconds, finishing in 29:17.45
Molly Huddle may be disappointed to finish 6th, especially after a premature celebration left her just out of a medal at last year’s World Championships, but she’ll likely take consolation in her American Record of 30:13.37, nine seconds under the previous mark of 30:22.
Huddle found herself hanging on to the back of the early pack of eight that separated themselves from the field, but after 4000m or so, she dropped back to run her own race. Huddle is good, there’s no doubt about that, but a sub-30 wasn’t going to be in the cards for her.
Four women—Ayana, Cheruiyot, Dibaba, and Nawowuna—ran under 30 minutes on the first morning of track action in Rio. If the first hours of track action are any indication, we’re in for a spicy couple days of track at these Olympics.