Rio Olympics Day 1

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History In Rio: Almaz Ayana Smashes Women’s 10,000 World Record With 29:17.45 In Greatest Women’s 10,000 Ever – Molly Huddle Breaks America
Top 8 Finishers All Set A New Record For Fastest Time Ever Run For That Place

RIO DE JANEIRO — The 2016 Olympic track and field action got under way in incredible fashion this morning as the first track and field final of the 2016 Games produced a startling world record by Ethiopia’s Almaz Ayana, whose 29:17.45 shattered the legendary and questionable 29:31.78 world record set by China’s Wang Junxia nearly 23 years ago (Sept 1993). Ayana was far from the only runner to come up with a brilliant performance as without a doubt this was the greatest women’s 10,000 ever run.
Reigning world 10,000 champ Vivian Cheruiyot, a four-time global champ on the track, nearly broke Junxia’s old mark as well as she ran 29:32.53 for silver – the third-best time in history. Tirunesh Dibaba, the winner of the last two Olympic gold medals and arguably the greatest women’s distance runner in history, smashed both her own PR and the old Olympic record of 29:54.66 by finishing third in 29:42.56, the fourth-fastest mark in history.
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Kenya’s Alice Aprot Nawowuna was 5th in 29:53.51 (6th-fastest time in history) but deserves credit for a starring role of executive producer as she made the fast times possible. She set the rapid pace early on by leading for the first 13 laps laps and running the first 5000 in 14:46.
American Molly Huddle, who ran with the lead pack for the first nine laps before falling off, produced an absolutely outstanding run of 30:13.17 to smash Shalane Flanagan’s national record of 30:22.22, set in this same race eight years ago in Beijing. But while Flanagan’s effort was good for a bronze medal, Huddle’s run this morning only placed her sixth, so amazing were the women in front of her.
All told, this morning’s race produced four of the five fastest times in history and set records for the fastest time ever run for each of the first 8 places
2015 World Champs bronze medallist Emily Infeld finished 11th overall and was almost lapped by Huddle but still managed to run a 12-second pb of 31:26.94.
The Race
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Nawowuna wasted no time getting to the front and by 800 meters (2:26), the main contenders had already materialized at the front of the pack: Nawowuna, Ayana, Turkey’s European champ Yasemin Can, Cheruiyot, Betsy Saina of Kenya and the Bowerman Track Club, Dibaba, 2015 Worlds silver medallist Gelete Burka of Ethiopia and Huddle, in that order. After a 71-second third lap, those eight women had already broken away and were well under sub-30:00 pace at 1600 meters (4:46).
From there, Nawowuna ground out a series of 70-second laps and the lead pack remained the same at 3200 (9:28). Huddle, hanging on at the tail end of the group, was 150 meters ahead of Infeld, who was part of a small chase pack.
Aprot ran another 70 on the ninth lap and the blazing pace began to take its toll on Huddle, who was doing her best not to get dropped. Though the pace slowed to 71 as Nawowuna hit 4k in 11:49.79, Huddle knew her body couldn’t handle 29:35 pace any more and began to back off. By the time Aprot passed 5k in 14:46, Burka had dropped off as the lead pack dwindled to six women.
Then Ayana took the lead and all hell broke loose. She upped the already furious tempo and within seconds, she had blown the lead pack to smithereens. As the split for her 14th lap flashed on the screen, it was scarcely believable: 66.67!
Cheruiyot was 10 meters back, with Nawowuna a further 10 meters behind. Dibaba was 20 meters back of that, with Can another 20 behind her. Huddle was well back in seventh. It was absolute carnage.
Ayana didn’t stop there, however, pouring it on with a 67 followed by a 68. By 7200 meters, she had lapped everyone in the field save the top eight. Running a 4:33 mile in the middle of a 10k — as Ayana did from 5600 to 7200 — will do that.
Ayana’s only opponent from then on was the clock, and it quickly became apparent that even that foe was overmatched. She came through 8k in 23:25.37 and needed to close her last mile in just 4:54 to break the world record. She wound up going much faster than that, splitting 4:41 for her last 1600 to crush the old mark by 14 seconds. Her second 5k — around 14:30 — would have been well under the existing Olympic record (14:40) in that event too.
Cheruiyot was assured of the silver and wound up second in a Kenyan-record 29:32.53, but with two to go, the bronze was still very much in doubt, with Dibaba hanging on to Nawowuna. Dibaba hadn’t come back from childbirth to finish fourth, though, and just before the bell she flashed the change of gears that carried her to golds in this event in 2008 and 2012. Nawowuna never had a chance as Dibaba ran a big PR of 29:42.56 to medal in her third straight Olympics.
Huddle was still grinding further back and her ridiculous early splits meant that she was still under American record pace even as she slowed down over the second half of the race. She hit 25:22 with a mile to go, needing only a sub-5:00 to remove Flanagan’s name from the record books. That wasn’t going to be a problem in these conditions, Huddle closing out a 4:51 final 1600 with a 71-second last lap.
Huddle’s record-breaking finish was accompanied by a delightful irony, as Emily Infeld crossed the line a fraction of a second in front of her — just as she had to deny her a medal in Beijing last year. The difference this time was that Infeld still had one lap to go.

Michelle Carter produced a jaw-dropping moment of inspiration in the sixth round to shatter Valerie Adams’ dreams of securing what would have been a record third Olympic gold and snatched a dramatic victory few anticipated.

Leading the competition from the opening round, Adams unleashed a season’s best of 20.42m in round two and appeared to be cruising to a comfortable win until somehow from somewhere Carter summoned up a Herculean final throw of 20.63m to add 39cm to her US record and destroy the New Zealander’s hopes of becoming the first woman in history to win three straight Olympic individual athletics titles.

Adams with her typical intense ‘game face’ ratcheted up several degrees responded with a 20.39m effort in round six but even she had to let out a wry grin at the sheer audacity of Carter’s smash-and-grab raid, which earned her family bragging rights having gone one better than her father, Michael, who won the shot put silver at the 1984 Olympics.

Somewhat forgotten in the dramatic denouement to the first field event final of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games was Anita Marton’s impressive Hungarian record of 19.87m, which earned her a highly creditable bronze.

Reigning world champion Christina Schwanitz of Germany was beaten out of sight, trailing home sixth with a modest 19.03m, more than a metre down on her season’s best.

The event was teed up as a likely battle between Adams and Schwanitz, although Carter, who had set a US indoor record of 20.21m when winning at the IAAF World Indoor Championships Portland 2016 in March, was certainly in the medal frame.  

Adams, certainly the most dominant shot putter of her generation, had shown rare vulnerability over the past couple of seasons, her previous superiority blunted by triple surgery, although a welcome return to 20-metre form in recent weeks had lifted her confidence. 

Showing all the fierce competitive qualities to which we have become accustomed, it was Adams, who established early control of the competition with a decent opening effort of 19.79m.

In an otherwise largely uneventful first round, Carter was second with 19.12m followed by Schwanitz, who reached what was eventually to be her best of 19.03m.

In round two, Carter responded to exceed Adams’ first round distance by three centimetres only for the Kiwi to regain the initiative with a season’s best 20.42m.

The throw – Adams’ longest since September 2014 – came within one centimetre of Lijiao Gong’s world-leading mark.

In the battle for the minor medals, China’s Gong moved into third with a best of 19.39m as Schwanitz – who was given a red flag in round two – was relegated to fourth.

The major mover of round three was Marton, who started to come into the medal picture by nudging Gong to fourth with a 19.39m effort.

In round four, there was no overall change to the top five.

Adams was red-flagged, although Carter marginally improved on her best with 19.87m. A deflated-looking Schwanitz committed a third successive foul to remain fifth.

The penultimate round proved an anti-climax with only Carter catching the eye as she maintained her consistent series with a best of 19.84m.

However, the real excitement was to follow.

The US 20-year-old Raven Saunders was the first to strike in round six with a PB of 19.35m advancing her to fifth overall. Marton then produced her moment of inspiration to hurl the shot 19.87m and improve her national record by 38cm to match Carter’s best at that point.

Yet the real drama was to follow as Carter was to rip the heart out of Adams with her final throw, and with only Adams still to throw, which was to give Carter the most dramatic of victories and become the first US athlete in this event to take the gold medal.


In tough qualification session which saw only three women achieve the automatic standard of 72.00m somewhat predictably the world champion and world record holder Anita Wlodarczyk stood head and shoulders above her rivals.

Unbeaten since June 2014 the towering Pole appeared to be well under control when hurling the hammer out to a distance of 76.93m, rather shy of her season’s best of 80.28m but still in excess of what any other athlete in the world has thrown this year.

Prior to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, Wlodarczyk was one of the warmest favourites of any athletics event and, if anything, her standing as the likely gold medal winner has hardened after a dominant qualification session.

Slightly surprisingly the next best thrower in Group A was the 30-year-old Venezuelan Rosa Rodriquez, who achieved her automatic standard with her third and final effort of 72.41m.

It was a performance which should fill the Pan American champion with confidence ahead of Monday morning’s final.

Rodriquez is hardly an unknown quantity after winning the Pan American Games and South American titles last year, as well as reaching the final of the IAAF World Championships Beijing 2015, but her odds have shortened on her picking up a surprise medal.

Best of the rest in the first group was Moldova’s Zalina Margheiva (71.72m) and USA’s Deanna Price (70.79m).

Slightly less convincingly, as it needed a final throw of 70.30m to ensure a safe passage through to the final was France’s Alexandra Tavernier, the 2015 world bronze medallist, although the latter will be pleased to have negotiated the qualifiers safely after three fouls at the same stage of the European Championships last month.

Zheng Wang, who has placed fourth and fifth at the past two world championships was also well-down on her best but a second attempt of 70.60m was good enough for the Chinese thrower to advance.

Her compatriot Zhang Wenxiu struggled with her opening two attempts in Group B but sent her third round effort out to 73.58m to lead that pool and become the only automatic qualifier.

Former world champion and world record holder Betty Heidler was far less impressive but qualified with her first throw of 71.17m.

On a night when only modest distances a fraction over 70 metres were required to progress, the one major casualty was 2016 European bronze medallist Hanna Skydan. The 24-year-old World University Games champion has set a pair of Azerbaijani records this year, nudging her PB up to 73.87m, but found 70.09m insufficient to make the final.

David Rudisha showed the rest of the world that it will take an extraordinary effort to wrestle the Olympic title away from him as the defending champion posted the fastest time from the morning’s seven heats, clocking 1:45.09 almost without breaking sweat.

Rudisha made qualifying for Saturday’s semi-finals look easy after he moved to the front in heat three after 200 metres and was never headed.

He passed the bell in 52.36 and then surged again with 150 metres to shake out the cobwebs and shake off anybody impertinent enough to challenge him at this stage in the competition.

South Africa’s Rynardt van Rensburg and Great Britain’s Michael Rimmer followed him home and to take the automatic qualifying spots and the pace was quick enough down the field that 2016 US champion Clayton Murphy was towed through as one of the fastest non-automatic qualifiers.    

Heat one saw another US runner qualify as Brian Berian head to the front when the runners broke for the inside and he passed 400m in 50.78.

Berian kept the pace quick and held the lead until he was passed 70 metres from home by Djibouti’s Ayanleh Souleiman and then Bosnia’s 2015 world championships bronze medallist Amel Tuka, but the US runner hung onto secure the third automatic qualifying spot as Souleiman won in 1:45.48, the second fastest time in the heats.

Poland’s two-time European champion Adam Kszczot was an impressive winner of the second heat, going through the gears from 200 metres out and moving quickly clear of the chasing pack.

He had the luxury of being able to ease off 20 metres from the line, which he passed in 1:45.83 as Kenya’s Ferguson Rotich and Puerto Rico’s Andres Arroyo won the five-way battle behind him for the other two automatic qualifying spots.

The fourth heat saw this year’s Kenyan champion Alfred Kipketer hit the bell in 53.52 and dominate proceedings over the second lap.

Kipketer won in1:46.61 and at this early stage in the competition seems like Rudisha’s closest rival for the gold medal. He had few problems holding off fellow automatic qualifiers, Denamrks Andraes Bubbe and Algeria’s unheralded Yassine Hethat, down the home straight.

However, this heat saw the elimination not only of Vazquez but of USA’s Charles Jock and Great Britain’s recent European Championships bronze medals Elliott Giles.

Heat five saw Spain’s Kevin Lopez lead the field around the first lap in a near-pedestrian 56.41.

Seven runners came into the home straight still in contention for the three automatic qualifying spots but London 2012 Olympic Games 1500m champion Taoufik Makhloufi should his renowned speed to come through over the final 40 metres and win in 1:49.17.

He was followed home by Morocco’s Mustafa Smaili and Italy’s Giordano Benedetti. However, London silver medallist Nijel Amos found himself lacking a turn of speed and drifted back to seventh.

Canada’s Brandon McBride front ran the sixth heat, passing through 400m in 51.83 before winning by five metres in 1:45.99.

Poland’s 2016 European silver medallist Marcin Lewandowski was in trouble with 200 metres to go and lying back in fourth with a lot of ground to make up but had the finishing speed to come through for second as Ireland’s Mark English produced a quick finish to move up several places and take third.

The field in the final heat seemed content to sit on the tail of Pierre-Ambroise Bosse, who towed them through the first lap in 55.99, and nobody had any response when the Frenchman accelerated with 150 metres to go to win in 1:48.12.

Mohammed Aman clinched second place behind Bosse with a spirited finish over the final 50 metres but looks somewhat short of the form that took him to world indoor and outdoor titles in 2013 while Algeria’s Amine Belferar exceeded some expectations and finished third.

Moments after Valerie Adams was dramatically denied making history as the first ever women to win a hat-trick of Olympic titles in an individual event, the next cab off the rank for that particular feat, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, was in action and she remains on track to deliver after leading the qualifiers for Saturday’s semi-finals.

The diminutive Jamaican has not quite yet been at the top of her game so far this season, but as a three-time world champion and two-times Olympic gold medallist she is a formidable competitor and impressively clocked 10.96 to edge Marie Josee Ta Lou of Ivory Coast by 0.05 to take victory in heat four.

Fraser-Pryce, due in part to her outstanding championship credentials, still remains the favourite for the gold medal in this event but Friday nights heats show there are a raft of women who could potentially challenge in what looks set to be an enthralling battle.   

In the opening heat, Great Britain’s Desiree Henry sprung a slight surprise to overhaul 2013 world silver medallist Murielle Ahoure of the Coast to take the win in 11.08 and triumph by a margin of 0.09.  

As you might expect from the 2015 world 100m silver Dafne Schippers, the Dutchwoman recovered from a steady start to comfortably accelerate past her rivals and take victory in heat two, recording 11.16 and finishing 0.15 clear of Germany’s Tatjana Pinto.

US is chasing a first Olympic title in this event for 20 years, claimed three heat winners and they all look like potential challengers.

In heat three, 2015 world bronze medallist Tori Bowie ran a solid 11.13 to shade Nigeria’s Blessing Okagbare by 0.03.

In heat five, world long jump champion Tianna Bartoletta edged Poland’s fast-starting world junior silver medallist Ewa Swoboda by 0.01 to take the heat win in 11.23.

US completed a full set of heat wins via the 2016 national champion English Gardner, who flew to a 11.09 clocking despite easing down from South Africa’s Carina Horn, who was a distant second in 11.32.   

In heat seven, world number one Elaine Thompson powered through strongly in the latter stages of the race to take the heat win by 0.04 in 11.21 from Brazil’s Rosangela Santos, who received a predictably vociferous support from the crowd.