Ethiopia's Tirunesh Dibaba sprinted to gold in the slowest 5,000 meters race in four Olympics [ Images ] on Friday to become the first woman to win both long distance races at the same Games.
The 23-year-old world record holder won the 10,000m in the second fastest time a week ago but the early laps of Friday's race more closely resembled the pace of the morning's 20km walk.
There was no mistaking Dibaba for a walker when it came to the final lap, however, and she outsprinted Athens champion and compatriot Meseret Defar in a straight foot race over the last lap to cross the line in 15 minutes 41.40 seconds.
Turkey's Elvan Abeylegesse, who was second behind Dibaba in the 10,000m, followed the Ethiopians when they broke away just after the bell and stormed past the broken Defar on the final curve to win silver in 15.42.74.
"I knew I could get a medal at least. So I'm still quite satisfied. Every athlete wants to strive for gold. But only one of us can get it. Tirunesh is a hard-working girl," said Abeylegesse.
The 24-year-old Defar appeared to have been tripped four laps from the finish as the farcically slow early pace meant there were 13 runners still bunched together at that stage of the race.
"Today was a bad day for me," said Defar, who held on to win a bronze medal in 15.44.12. "Someone hit my leg, with three or four laps left. It was the right leg and it hurt."
Abeylegesse made an effort to up the pace but the strong-finishing Ethiopians had been happy to bide their time and wait for the bell.
Dibaba hit the front on the penultimate lap but that was just a precursor to the explosive acceleration she showed going into the back straight for the final time when only Defar was able to stay with her.
It looked like the race might go down to the last 200 meters but Dibaba found another gear that Defar was unable to match.
It was the slowest winning time for a women's 5,000m since its debut in 1996, when it replaced the 3,000m. No athlete had won both the 3,000m and 10,000m at a single Games.
Dibaba, who took the world record from Defar in June when she ran 14.11.15, was also the first woman to win both long distance races at the same world championships in 2005.