The Ethiopian closed with a blistering final lap, winning by over 5 seconds to cap off the first day of competition.
They call her the “Baby Faced Destroyer” and for most of the 25 laps of the Olympic 10,000m final in London on Friday night, Ethiopian Tirunesh Dibaba sat patiently in a pack, covering moves but refusing to make a decisive one of her own. That all changed with one lap to go, however, when she took out the weapon she’d been concealing for most of the race, decimating the field with a blistering 62-second final circuit to repeat as Olympic champion in 30 minutes, 20.75 seconds.
“I have never been happier like today,” Dibaba said after the race. “It is very special. I have worked hard for this.”
Kenyan Sally Kipyego, the Texas Tech grad who now lives and trains in Eugene, Oregon as part of the Oregon Track Club Elite, validated her silver medal from last summer’s world championships with a second-place finish in a personal best 30:26.37. Fellow Kenyan Vivian Cheruiyot held on for bronze, crossing the finish line in 30:30.44.
Hitomi Niiya, Kayoko Fukushi and Mika Yoshikawa of Japan took the early pace, helping tow the field through 5K in a modest 15:31 and change. Dibaba, Cheruiyot, Ethiopian Werknesh Kidane (4th, 30:39.38) and many others sat comfortably in the pack before business began to pick up during the sixth kilometer (2:59.9). The trio of Dibaba, Cheruiyot and Kipyego separated themselves by 8K (24:39.9), with Kipyego taking the reigns. Very little changed until the bell lap, when Dibaba finally unleashed her lethal finishing kick to put the race away.
Amy Hastings was the top American finisher, posting a personal best 31:10.69 to finish 11th after committing herself to the lead pack through the races first 4 miles. The U.S.’s Janet Cherobon-Bawcom and Lisa Uhl, who worked together for much of race behind Hastings, eventually caught their teammate with one mile to go and helped push one another to personal bests, finishing 12th and 13th in 31:12.68 and 31:80, respectively.
Earlier in the day, the men’s 1,500m preliminary rounds took place, along with the men’s steeplechase semifinal. There were no huge surprises in the 1,500, as Taoufik Makhloufi took heat 1 in 3:35.15. American Leo Manzano, who won this event at the U.S. Olympic Trials in June, advanced automatically out of that heat in 3:37.00. The other two American entrants, Andrew Wheating and Matthew Centrowitz, also advanced to the semifinal rounds, finishing seventh and fifth in their heats, respectively. Wheating posted a time of 3:40.92 to advance on time, while Centrowitz crossed in 3:41.39.
In the steeplechase heats, American Evan Jager made it look easy in heat 1, taking control of the pace for most of the race before finishing a close second to Mahiedinein Mekhissi-Benabbad of France in a comfortable 8:16.61 to automatically advance to the final on Sunday. Kenyan Brimin Kiprop Kipruto won heat 2 in 8:28.62, while American Kyle Acorn finished ninth in 8:37.11, failing to advance. Heat 3 was won by Roba Gari of Ethiopia in 8:20.68, just ahead of Kenyan Ezekiel Kemboi. American Donald Cabral was fourth in 8:21.46, automatically qualifying for the final.