When Tirunesh Dibaba first burst on to the global distance-running scene, winning the world 5,000m title as an 18-year-old in Paris in 2003, she was christened "the baby-faced assassin." Nine years on, the diminutive Ethiopian still possesses a clinical killer touch.
Just ask the three women who entered the penultimate lap of the first track final of London 2012, the women's 10,000m last night, still in the hunt for gold with her. They were scattered to the four winds when Dibaba hit the front, with 550m to go, glancing up at the big screen to check the reaction of her rivals, and then pulled the trigger.
By the finish, the 27-year-old was 5.62sec clear, crossing the line in 30min 20.75sec. Sally Kipyego took silver and her Kenya team-mate Vivian Cheruiyot bronze.
Last year Cheruiyot was on fire – winning the 5,000m and 10,000m at the world championships in Daegu – but Dibaba was injured. The Ethiopian has never lost a 10,000m race and is unbeaten on the track at any distance since September 2009.
On last night's evidence, she is set to become the first woman to win back-to-back Olympic 5,000m and 10,000m crowns, having prevailed at both distances in Beijing four years ago. Britons Jo Pavey and Julia Bleasdale finished seventh and eighth respectively.
There was no British representative in the other final contested on the opening day of track and field action, Carl Myerscough having failed to venture beyond the morning qualifying round of the men's shot. In the absence of the 6ft 10in one-time doping offender known as "the Blackpool Tower", victory in the final went to the defending champion, Tomasz Majewski. The Pole's 21.89m sneaked gold by 3cm from David Storl of Germany, with Reese Hoffa of the US claiming bronze.
For some, however, it was an achievement just to get to the Games. Zamzam Mohamed Farah received a sympathetic round of applause as she strolled home a very distant last in heat one of the women's 400m in 1min 20.48sec.
The 21-year-old, who carried the Somali flag in the opening ceremony, trains on the streets of Mogadishu because her county does not have a functioning stadium.
- More about:
- Athletics, Track And Field
- Olympic Stadium
- Performance-Enhancing Drugs