By Brian Homewood
LONDON (Reuters) – Ethiopian Almaz Ayana destroyed the field to win the 10,000 metres at the World Championships on Saturday, finishing around 300 metres clear of her rivals in her first race of an injury-plagued season.
The Olympic champion began pulling away from the field after 10 laps, sweeping past back markers who were made to look sluggish in comparison.
She finished in 30:16.32 seconds, well outside the world record she set when she won in Rio last year but still enough to win by an astonishing 46.37 seconds, by far the biggest margin in championship history.
Ayana’s compatriot Tirunesh Dibaba, the former world and Olympic champion, added to her impressive collection of medals when he took the silver with Kenya’s Agnes Tirop in third.
“I am very happy to win this title, much more than when I won the Olympic gold because I have been sick this year and didn’t expect it. In fact, this was my first race of 2017,” Ayana told reporters.
A repeat of her world record-breaking performance in Rio was never on the cards after a slow, tactical start to the race in which the field crawled around the first lap in 81 seconds.
But the last two thirds of the race was reminiscent of Ayana’s extraordinary run last year where she also blew away the field.
Ayana began pulling away after 10 laps and by the 12th had opened up a gap of 30 metres.
The 25-year-old ran the next three kilometres in 8:33 minutes as she continued to increase her advantage and began overhauling the backmarkers with eight laps to go.
Remarkably, Ayana’s prospects had been in doubt because injuries forced her to cancel a number of appearances at European meetings this season.
The battle for second turned into a three-horse race between Kenyans Tirop and Alice Nawowuna and the 32-year-old Dibaba.
Almost unnoticed, Dibaba, who is now focusing on running marathons, won the sprint to claim silver to sit alongside the five world championship and three Olympic golds she has won.
“I have only had two months of training, so I am happy to win silver this time,” she said.
“It was a very fast race. I knew that Almaz was going to run very fast so, if I had followed her, I wouldn’t have won a medal. I know my capacity these days because my training for this race was very short.”
(Editing by Ed Osmond)