RIO DE JANEIRO – Hot favorite Almaz Ayana suddenly slumped in the final stages, allowing Vivian Cheruiyot of Kenya to surge past and win the women’s 5,000 meters in an Olympic record on Friday night.
That gave Cheruiyot revenge for her second-place finish behind the Ethiopian in the 10,000 meters a week ago.
Cheruiyot timed her attack with less than two laps to go, suddenly closing a big gap Ayana had opened and speeding away for gold in 14 minutes, 26.17 seconds, just over 14 seconds better than the previous Olympic mark.
It was the 32-year-old Cheruiyot’s first Olympic gold after a silver and a bronze at the London Games and that silver in the 10,000 in Rio.
Fellow Kenyan Hellen Obiri also beat world champion Ayana to take the silver in a personal record 14:29.77.
Ayana, who broke the world record in winning the 10,000 on the opening day of track and field at the Rio Games, finished third in 14:33.59. All three medalists crossed inside the former Olympic record of 14:40.79 set by Romania’s Gabriela Szabo at the Sydney Olympics in 2000.
Not surprisingly, the five top finishers were all from Kenya or Ethiopia.
The 24-year-old Ayana, who was completely dominant in the 10,000, was expected to challenge Ethiopian compatriot Tirunesh Dibaba’s world record of 14:11.15 in the 5,000 final. Halfway through the race she had taken control after an early break by Japan’s Miyuki Uehara and opened a big gap on the chasing pack.
But, on a warm night in Rio, she suddenly tired and Cheruiyot breezed past, sinking Ayana’s bid for a 5,000-10,000 double at her first Olympics.
Nikki Hamblin, the runner whose act of sportsmanship alongside American Abbey D’Agostino in the 5,000 heats warmed hearts at the Olympics, finished last in the final in 16:14.24 — still a personal best for the New Zealand athlete.
The U.S. women retained the 4×100-meter relay title and helped Allyson Felix win her record fifth Olympic gold medal.
A Jamaican team containing Elaine Thompson and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, took silver in 41.36. Britain claimed the bronze in a national record 41.77.
Felix ran the second leg for the Americans, the same section as 100- and 200-meter gold medalist Thompson, and passed to English Gardner, who ran a powerful curve to give her team the lead. Tori Bowie ran the anchor leg and held off Fraser-Pryce as the Americans only narrowly missed the world record.
The 30-year-old Felix entered the games as one of six women with four Olympic gold medals in track and field.
“It’s very special. It was great to join these women tonight. It’s just a very unique experience,” Felix said of her milestone.
“The adversity yesterday made us even more determined. We just kept fighting the whole way through,” she said, referring to the ‘crazy freak accident’ in the Thursday morning heats when the baton dropped to the ground as she handed over to Gardner.
The Americans appealed successfully, arguing that Felix had been impeded by a Brazilian runner, and went through at China’s expense after being allowed to race by themselves in a solo heat in the evening.
They sailed through in the final despite the disadvantage of racing in the tightest lane, No. 1, fueled by determination not to repeat Thursday’s mishap.
“It really made us focus and buckle down on executing the race,” Bartoletta said.
In other events, Dilshod Nazarov of Tajikistan won the hammer throw, beating veteran Ivan Tsikhan of Belarus for gold.
Nazarov threw 78.68 meters on his penultimate attempt on Friday, while 40-year-old Tsikhan had 77.79. Wojciech Nowicki of Poland took bronze with 77.73.
Greece’s Ekaterini Stefanidi won the women’s pole vault, clearing 4.85 meters to beat American Sandi Morris, who took silver.
Stefanidi, a 26-year-old who lives in the United States, shouted in ecstasy as she cleared the bar at 4.85 and celebrated before she even landed.
Morris, 24, also cleared 4.85 but took silver because of more failed attempts earlier in the competition.
New Zealand’s Eliza McCartney, 19, cleared 4.80 to tie her national record and take bronze.