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NEWS FEATURE Magic moment or freak show as records crumble in Olympic 10,000m By John Bagratuni, dpa

Europe
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Athletics at the Rio Olympics started with a bang - and now the world wonders whether the women‘s 10,000 with Almaz Ayana‘s sensational world record are a milestone in the sport or not.

Rio de Janeiro (dpa) - It didn‘t take long for the debate to start on whether the world had just witnessed a magical moment or a freak show in an extraordinary Olympic 10,000-metre final.

In the first athletics medal event of the Rio Games, Ethiopia‘s Almaz Ayana smashed the women‘s 10,000-metre world record in 29 minutes 17.45 seconds, taking 14 seconds off the mark of 29:31.78 that China‘s Wang Junxia had run 23 years ago in Beijing 1993.

The record was regarded as untouchable, and it was revealed in February that Wang admitted to doping many years ago in the team under controversial coach Ma Junren.

Ma, however, insisted he used no forbidden practices but rather substances like turtle blood.

And if Ayana‘s time wasn‘t enough, Friday‘s race saw three other women dip below 30 minutes - compared to the total previous of four who had done the same in 23 years since Wang‘s tainted run.

Kenya‘s Vivien Cheruiyot took silver in 29:32.53, two-time 10,000m gold medallist Tirunesh Dibaba grabbed bronze in 29:42.46, and fourth-placed Kenyan Alice Nawowuna had 29:53.51.

Running the distance for only the second time in her career, Ayana‘s second half of the race in 14:30 would have won her gold in every previous 5,000m final at the Olympics.

"What a mind blowing race! To throw in 66s laps off already sub 30 pace..phenomenally fast running from so many women," tweeted Britain Paula Radcliffe, whose marathon world record appears untouchable but who never managed to dip below 30 minutes in the 10,000m.

But Sweden‘s Sarah Lahti was not so sure, quoted by the Expressen paper as saying: "I do not really believe that she is 100 per cent (clean). It is too easy for her."

"We see no facial expression while the rest of us are struggling for their lives at the back. How much difference can there be. I can not say that she is not clean, but there is little doubt."

The fast times come a time when the entire Russian athletics team is suspended from Rio over doping practices, and plenty of suspicion around other nations such as Kenya and Ethiopia in this area as well.

But Lahti herself raised her personal best by 26 seconds in 12th place trailing Ayana by more than two minutes.

In all, the race saw 18 personal bests, eight national records, five season bests, one area record and the world record from the 35 finishers.

The crowd may have been disappointingly sparse at the Olympic stadium but it was noisy and the runners had perfect weather conditions.

Ayana launched her attack shortly after the halfway mark and no-one was able to follow the 23-year-old, neither the reigning world champion Cheruiyot nor the past queen of distance running Dibaba who gave birth 18 months ago.

"This means everything for me," Ayana said when it was all over. "Getting to this point is a dream come true. I never thought that this would happen and I‘m so in awe. I‘m very happy to get here.

"I have worked very hard. I wouldn‘t say that my recent training has been any different from before but it was hard and it was all worth it."

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