When Almaz Ayana established what seemed like a controlling lead after four laps of the women's 5,000m, the pre-race favourite was heading for a memorable Olympic double on the back of her incredible performance in the 10,000m. However with fatigue setting in at the closing stages, Vivian Cheruiyot was able to apply a late surge and wrestled gold from Ayana's grasp.
Ethiopian Ayana marked the beginning of the athletics at Rio with a blistering WR performance of 29:17.45, some 14 seconds quicker than the previous time held by Wang Junxia. The opening stages of the race looked like Ayana would emulate her success but with around 2k remaining, Kenyan duo Vivian Cheruiyot and Hellen Onsando Obiri slowly shortened the gap.
The pair worked in tandem and Cheruiyot, a four-times world champion and Kenya’s most prolific athlete, sensed Ayana’s tiredness and kicked hardest to secure gold and a new OR of 14:26.17, with Obiri second 14:29.77 and Ayana settling for bronze in 14:33.59.
After the pain of finishing second behind Ayana over the 5,000m, Cheruiyot believed her chances of winning gold may have passed: "It was my fourth Olympic Games and I had not had gold, I'm so happy for me, my husband, my son, my parents. This might be the last Olympics for me so I thought maybe God might give me gold."
British runner Eilish McColgan continued what has been an impressive year with 13th place in 15:12.09, just three seconds off the PB she set earlier this year at Palo Alto.