BeijingPerhaps the gold medallist tonight was no great surprise, yet few would have predicted the race would throw up the second and third fastest times in history, an Olympic record, African, European and North America records and a World Junior record to boot in a truly staggering demonstration of distance running.
Of course, it was Tirunesh Dibaba who crossed the line first. The Ethiopian distance running icon finally adding the Olympic crown to her three World titles over the distance as once again she proved unbeatable on the track.
Yet some credit must be given to Holland's Lornah Kiplagat, who led for the first 6000m, and later Elvan Abeylegesse, the silver medallist, who pushed Dibaba to the second fastest 10,000m time in history of 29:54.66.
For her efforts Abeylegesse recorded 29:56.34 with Shalane Flanagan of the USA providing a remarkable story to recover just two days after food poisoning and wipe 12 seconds from her national record with 30:22.22.
Oh, and Linet Masai set a World junior record of 30:26.50 for fourth. And, remember, all this in the so called polluted city of Beijing in which distance runners were expected to suffer.
Dibaba, who secured Ethiopia's third gold medal in the six editions of this event at the Olympics, was elated to win and has set her sights on the 15-year-old World record time of 29:31.86 of China's Wang Junxia.
"I was expecting something from the race and I got it," said Dibaba. "It was the right place to break the world record (in China). Next year I'm sure I'll do it."
The early pace was taken up for Kiplagat, the Kenyan-born Dutch athlete who went through 2km in 6:00.15 - a point in which almost half the 31-strong field was already detached from the main group.
Kiplagat continued to lead the main group with Ethiopia's Mestawet Tufa and Abeylegesse in closer order. Dibaba, meanwhile, that's Tirunesh and not her older sister, Ejegayehu, preferred to stay out of trouble in about tenth for the first ten laps of the race.
Kiplagat, the 2007 World Cross Country champion hit the 5km mark in 15:09.98, ahead of Tufa, Abeylegesse and the Dibaba sisters with the lead group of 15 in Indian file, clearly stretched by the fierce first half pace.
Very quickly six dropped out of the back of the pack, although Kenyan duo Masai and Lucy Wangui as well as Flanagan were still in contention.
Eight laps out Abeylegesse decisively hit the front and injected further pace into the race with a sub 70-second lap.
Tufa and Ejegayehu Dibaba fell off the back and quickly out of the medal hunt as the race really started to take shape.
With a quarter distance remaining only Dibaba could stick with the dimunitive Turk's killer pace.
Masai ansd Wangui appeared to be in a private battle for bronze with Flanagan further back.
The closing laps followed a familar theme. Abeylegesse, the World silver medallist, head down, shoulders rolling desperate to break free. Dibaba, with a ramrod straight back and high knee lift stuck to her like a cat waiting to pounce.
Behind them, though, much drama. Flanagan, who set a US record of 30:34.49 in Stanford in April, was closing in on the two Kenyans.
First, she caught and passed the fading Wangui, the Commonwealth champion.
Next up the 27-year-old US athlete swept past Masai to take third place.
Up front, at the bell Dibaba made her winning move. She hit the front around the crown of the opening bend although Abeylegesse responded and down the back straight only a stride separarted the pair.
But, finally, just over 200m out the Turk finally cracked. Dibaba extended her advantage to run away to record an Olympic record, African record and the second fastest time in history.
But credit the Ethiopian-born Abeylegesse for sticking to the task to record the third fastest time ever - the pair becoming only the second and third athletes in history to dip below 30:00.
Flanagan defied her debilitating sickness caused by food poisoning for third in a North American record of 30:22.22. In fourth, Masai recorded a world junior and Kenyan record of 30:26.50.
In fifth, the fast finishing Maria Konovalova of Russia set a national record of 30:35.84 one place ahead of her compatriot, Inga Abitova, the European champion (30:37.33).
Wangui wound up seventh in a PB of 30:39.96 with the early leader, Kiplagat, in eighth (30:40.27). In a further measure of the quality of the race, if any more was needed, the bronze medallist from last year's World Championships, Kara Goucher of the USA, set a personal best of 30:55.16 but could only finish tenth!
For the record Dibaba's sibling, Ejegayehu, finished a distant 14th in 31:22.18 and Tufa, the third Ethiopian and third fastest in the world this year ahead of tonight's race, failed to finish.
One more final stat. The second 5000m was covered in a little under 14:45.
Steve Landells for the IAAF
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