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The ability to overcome challenges appears to be part of Almaz Ayana’s DNA.
By working hard to climb to the summit of global distance running, despite hailing from a modest rural background, to triumphing in the 10,000m on her season’s debut at the IAAF World Championships London 2017, no challenge appears beyond the capability of the world and Olympic 10,000m champion.
Yet the latest task to return to full fitness after undergoing surgery on both knees is, arguably, Ayana’s greatest obstacle to date as she builds up for what she hope will be a successful defence of her world 10,000m title in Doha on 28 September.
Born the seventh youngest of nine siblings in western Ethiopia, Ayana first engaged in running when registering for a school race at about the age of 13 or 14.
Having no clue as to how she would perform, she recalled finishing “second or third” over 1500m but faced a significant obstacle to her progress.
“When I started racing there was a girl at my school who always finished number one,” explains the quietly-spoken and unfailingly polite Ayana. “I was afraid of that girl but somebody told me that I have to beat her. I listened to that person, beat that girl and later joined a project (a training group for beginners) in my local area.”
Encouraged by how hard work could reap rewards, she moved to Addis Ababa and joined the Defence Force Club. A coach there advised her to try the steeplechase and she quickly advanced to the international level. In 2010 she placed fifth in the steeplechase at the IAAF World U20 Championships in Moncton, Canada and later that year shattered the world U20 record with a stunning 9:22.51 for third in Brussels.
African and Continental Cup 5000m victories followed in 2014 but it was the 2015 campaign when Ayana emerged as a world-class star. In Shanghai she ran a blistering 14:14.32 performance to climb to third on the world all-times list – behind Dibaba and Defar – with the kind of fearless front-running performance which has become her signature.
Then at the World Championships in Beijing later that year, a blistering final 3000m of 8:19 enabled Ayana to quell the considerable threat of compatriot Genzebe Dibaba to bank 5000m gold inside the crucible of the Bird’s Nest Stadium.
In 2016 the Ethiopian then entered another realm by obliterating the 23-year-old world 10,000m record by more than 14 seconds with a jaw-dropping time of 29:17.45 to claim the Olympic title in Rio.(07/23/2019) ⚡AMP
The seventeenth edition of the IAAF World Championships is scheduled to be held between 27 September and 6 October 2019 in Doha, Qatar at the renovated multi-purpose Khalifa International Stadium. Doha overcame bids from Eugene, USA, and Barcelona, Spain to be granted the rights to host the 2019 IAAF World Championships in Athletics. Having hosted the IAAF Diamond League, formerly...more...