Almaz Ayana took home gold in the Women’s 10,000 meter destroying a previous world record.
Another day, another first for the 2016 Rio Olympics. Katie Ledecky has won numerous medals, Ginny Thrasher won the first Olympic gold this year, Simone Biles has won four gold medals, and Simone Manuel has won two silver and two gold. All of these women have the same thing in common: the Rio Olympics is their first appearance at the games. Ethiopian athlete Almaz Ayana was added to this list on August 12th, when she not only won a gold medal in her first Olympics, but she smashed a world record.
Chinese athlete, Wang Junxia, held the previous record for 23 years. Amazingly enough, Ayana beat the record by a whole 19 seconds. No one had even managed to get within 22 seconds of Wang’s record in the past, but the whole world watched as Ayana crossed the finish line and destroyed the record single-handedly.
However, there is a bit of skepticism when it comes to Ayana’s victory. As unfortunate as it is, doping scandals are not only related to Russian athletes. Other track athletes, namely runner Jo Pavey are wondering if Ayana is completely clean. Pavey was extremely surprised to find that she was being lapped by Ayana so early in the race only halfway through the 10,000 meter race. “To get lapped so early into the race was shocking. It was almost confusing what was going on,” said Pavey.
Another athlete, Sweden’s Sarah Lathi, shares similar thoughts to Pavey, saying: “We see no facial expressions while the rest of us are struggling for life at the back. How much difference can there be? I cannot say that she is not clean, but there is little doubt.”
When Almaz Ayana was inevitably questioned, she denied the accusations. Ayana contributed her win to her training and her faith. Of course, this is what many athletes would say when accused of doping, but that being said, Ayana has reportedly never failed a drug test. There seems to be a more lax attitude about doping in Ethiopia, but Ayana was also seemingly tested before the Olympics.
Regardless, Pavey also stated that you have to admire the accomplishment until you know for sure whether one was cheating or not. Though it’s unclear for now whether Ayana is clean, assuming she is, she managed an incredible feat. The race itself was very fast, with the silver medalist, Kenya’s Vivian Cheruiyot, finishing only a second behind Wang’s previous world record.
“And my doping is my training,” said Ayana, “my doping is Jesus. Otherwise, nothing. I am crystal clear.”