Record-breaking start to Rio 2016 athletics action as Ethiopia’s Almaz Ayana smashes the world 10,000m mark by 14 seconds to claim Olympic gold

Athletics fans had been patiently waiting for track and field action to begin at Rio 2016 and what a start it was with a world record-breaking performance in the very first final on the programme.

At a cool and damp Olympic Stadium, Ethiopia’s Almaz Ayana obliterated the world 10,000m record by clocking 29:17.45 to take more than 14 seconds off the mark set by Wang Junxia in 1993.

Getting the gold in only her second ever 10,000m race, Ayana beat Vivian Cheruiyot with a 29:32.53 Kenyan record for silver and two-time Olympic 10,000m champion Tirunesh Dibaba, who ran a 29:42.56 PB for bronze, with all three medallists inside the previous Olympic record of 29:54.66 run by Dibaba in 2008.

Kenya’s Alice Aprot had started to string out the field early on, clocking 3:01.53 for the first kilometre and taking the lead group through 2km in 5:55.79. She was on world record pace at 5000m with 14:46.81 on the clock, before Ayana began to pull away. When Junxia set the world record she passed 8km in 23:59.9, while Ayana went through in 23:25.37. The Ethiopian continued to pass 9km in 26:22.88, compared to the Chinese athlete’s 26:44.8.

To put her time into perspective, Ayana ran a 14:30 second half, which is quicker than the Olympic 5000m record. The first half split would have won three of the five previous Olympic 5000m finals.

“Getting to this point is a dream come true,” said Ayana. “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.

“This means everything for me. God is the one that got me here. It’s a huge deal for me.”

With 10,000m titles claimed in 2008 and 2012, plus the 5000m title from Beijing, Dibaba could have become the first athlete to win three individual track golds in succession from one event but she couldn’t stick with Ayana’s blistering pace.

From the 37-strong field, a total of 18 athletes had record-breaking or PB performances, including Aprot with a 29:53.51 PB for fourth and USA’s Molly Huddle, who ran an area record of 30:13.17 for sixth.

Further down the field, Britain’s Jo Pavey, competing in her fifth Olympic Games, clocked 31:33.44 for 15th and her fifth fastest ever 10,000m. One place behind her was British champion Jess Andrews with a 31:35.92 PB, while Beth Potter, who was clipped at the start of the race and had also suffered stomach problems in the days leading up to the competition, clocked 33:04.34 for 34th.

“As a schoolgirl I dreamed of running in the Olympics so to do it for the fifth time is amazing,” said Pavey. “I feel so honoured and it felt so special to be on that start line.

“I’d have liked to have run a little quicker than that and been a bit more competitive,” she added.

Earlier on in the session Britain’s Michael Rimmer and Elliot Giles had contrasting experiences in their 800m heats. While Rimmer clocked 1:45.99 for third to progress to the semi-finals from a race won by Kenya’s defending champion and world record-holder David Rudisha in 1:45.09, Giles was seventh after having suffered slight hamstring trouble in recent days.

Speaking after the race, Rimmer said he is determined to make the final, explaining: “It’d be a waste of a career if I don’t.”

Ferguson Rotich, who has been involved in some controversy in recent days after Kenyan coach John Anzrah allegedly gave a urine sample under Rotich’s name after he was found wearing the athlete’s accreditation, was also among those to progress to the semi-finals, where he will be joined by athletes including Adam Kszczot, Ayanleh Souleiman, Amel Tuka and Boris Berian. There’s no place in the next round for Commonwealth champ Nijel Amos, however, after the first surprise of the competition saw him finish seventh in a heat won by Taoufik Makhloufi in 1:49.17.

There was also an upset in men’s discus qualifying as Germany’s defending champion Robert Harting failed to make the final as his only valid throw of 62.21m was not enough to see him progress. Achieving the automatic qualifying distance of 65.50m was Poland’s Piotr Malachowski and Austria’s Lukas Weisshaidinger, while Harting’s brother Christoph is among those to advance with his 65.41m.

Valerie Adams indicated her intentions in qualifying for the shot final, throwing 19.74m in the first round to secure her spot. She will be joined in the final by Michelle Carter, Raven Saunders, Christina Schwanitz, Lijiao Gong and Anita Marton.

» Further coverage of the first session of athletics action, including Katarina Johnson-Thompson’s British high jump record, can be found here