Ethiopian long-distance runner Almaz Ayana has set the world record in the women’s 10,000-meter race, finishing in 29 minutes and 17.45 seconds. In addition to winning the first gold medal for an African team in the 2016 Summer Olympics, Ayana beat the previous record, in place for the last 23 years, by a remarkable 14.46 seconds.
After crossing the finish line, the 24-year old raised her arms in triumph and then crossed her heart as Ethiopian fans in the stands cheered.
Kenya’s Vivian Cheruiyot of Kenya took silver in the event, while Tirunesh Dibaba, also from Ethiopia won the bronze.
The race of about 6.2 miles is one of the longest track events, with runners completing 25 laps around the Olympic sized track. The previous world record of 29 minutes and 31.78 seconds was set by Chinese long-distance runner Wang Junxia in Germany in 1993. Ayana also set the world record for the fastest debut run of the 10,000 meter race during Olympic trials in June.
Paula Radcliffe, the world’s fastest female marathoner, told the BBC, “I’m not sure that I can understand that. When I saw the world record set in 1993, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. And Ayana has absolutely blitzed that time.”
African teams at the Olympics haven’t fared well so far. Kenya has had two coaches sent home over doping while Namibian boxer Jonas Junias has been charged with attempted sexual assault. Frustrated with the internal politics and mismanagement of local sports bodies some athletes from African countries including Ethiopia, Kenya and Nigeria have quit their nations to run for countries like Qatar, Bahrain and Turkey.