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Almaz Ayana destroys long standing 10,000m World Record

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    The previous world record for fastest 10000m track run was set by China's Wang Junxia, way back in 1993, with a time of 29:31:78. Ethonia's Almaz Ayana really did shatter that record to win gold at Rio, by turning in a 29:17:45.

    That's better than 14 seconds over the previous world's best. And she didn't just win gold, she got closer to breaking 29 minutes than any person in history, which is particularly impressive when you look over the full list of the top 30 women's times in the world since 1986.

    Back in '86, the best was set at 30:13:17. Meaning she did almost exactly 1 full minute better than the best in the world was capable of, some 30 years ago.

    I ran track in high school. And just to run around the smaller track 8 times felt a little torturous. Can't even imagine running an Olympic version 25 times, avg what, a little over a minute per lap. Very impressive event to watch, stamina wise.

    Ethiopia's Ayana destroys world record for 10,000m gold

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    I suppose I could feel better about her accomplishment if I wasn't suspicious of possible doping allegations made by some of the other athletes. The allegations are not new. Back in February nine Ethiopian runners were under investigation after they returned “suspicious” results in doping tests.

    As Fox Sports reported in 2013, the illegal "new generation drugs" used by athletes and administered by coaches are designed to stimulate growth hormones and are nearly impossible to detect by testing.

    Almaz Ayana has denied the doping charges:

    “No. 1, I’ve been training specifically (for this event). No. 2, I pray to the lord. The lord has given me everything, everything. And No. 3, my doping is Jesus. Those are the reasons.”

    So there you go. Like the Chinese record she broke, which was also the subject of doping charges, her record will stand unless she flunks a drug test.

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    Yeah I hear ya. But something about all this doping doesn't really bother me all that much. Sure, in a perfect world no one would ever dope, we would catch all the 'cheaters', and all games would forever be clean and on the up and up.

    But really, first off, that will never happen. Second, and more to the point, it's not like any doping administration, especially the ones that are currently undetectable, give you that much of an advantage, to where it turns you into a super athlete. Sure it gives super athletes an edge (how much, we can debate I suppose, I say pretty small all things considered), and it can be argued that that's where Ayana got her 14 second edge to own the record. (if she did in fact take something illegal)

    But most 'doping' is for recovery, and stamina, to increase oxygen flow and whatnot. Is it really that much of a crime for someone that dedicates their life to a singular pursuit to be able to further maximize their bodies ability to withstand strain and stress from their pursuit, especially when they put in so much effort? I don't think so. If it were up to me, I would say we should allow more 'doping' to be allowed, and not be so strict.

    Technology already advances what an athlete can do in their pursuit in untold dozens and dozens of micro ways. Better gear, better tracks, etc etc. So to compare an athletes' accomplishments from one Olympics to the next, unless the exact same variables exist, is already unfair.

    As long as everyone can take advantage of a few drugs that help just with recovery and stamina, I say that would level the playing field, and would not in any way to take away from what one accomplishes, with that assistance. Problem is some do, and some don't. I get the unfairness there. My argument is more broad though; in the bigger sense, I really don't have an issue with it.

    As for the religious crap.. it's whatever. It's pretty silly. Definitely. I also roll my eyes every single damn time an NFL player gives his respect to 'god' for helping him get that game winning touchdown. It's beyond irritating. Something about believing in something greater than yourself though is a common thread with a lot of the world's greatest athletes. In a psychological sense, I can at least appreciate it means they are putting their 'belief' in the outcome of their performance into something beyond just them. And in that very vague sense, it at least makes some kind of sense why we see God and Jesus and whatever mentioned every time a great sport's feat is achieved. I very much dislike it, but I at least get it.

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    After doing some further reading and giving this some more thought, I was premature and uninformed in my suspicions on Almaz Ayana. I should separate her remarkable achievement from the trend for drugs and doping in sports in general. First in Ayana's defense, she is a "natural runner" in the sense that her lean physique is like all the elite Ethiopian men long distance runners. The Ethiopian men have in the last 20 years established themselves as the premier long distance runners, beating out the Kenyans. That is partially a result of their genetic make-up but also the fact that their environment is conducive to running from a young age.

    Ethiopian women have the same genes as their men, but because of the way women are treated in Ethiopian society, it has been much harder for them to break through that sports glass ceiling. As Alemayehu G. Marian writes in the Huffington Post, Speaking Truth on Behalf of Ethiopian Women:

    “81% of Ethiopian women believe their husbands have the right to beat them if they burn food, refuse sex, or go somewhere without their husband’s consent”. Ethiopian women are not only lacking personal security but also social security. Seventy- five percent of all Ethiopian women are illiterate, and consequently bear the heaviest burden of poverty. Maternal deaths from childbirth for Ethiopian women is among the highest in the world. High HIV infection rates, child marriages and the devastating health consequences associated with them and many other risk factors have left Ethiopian women in a state of misery and despair facing a daily ordeal for survival."

    So Almaz Ayana must be admired for extricating herself from a society where the economic opportunity to participate, let alone excel, in sports is extremely difficult.

    Indeed, when one compares the progression charts of the world record in the 10,000 meters for men and women, the difference is obvious. Almaz Ayana is filling in the void from 1993 onwards. If her and her fellow country women would have been competing all these years with the same access to facilities and training afforded to the men, the 10,000 meter record for women would have been incrementally lowered perhaps to an even lower level.

    As recognition of Ayana's achievements take hold in Ethiopia, hopefully it will be the impetus and inspiration for more Ethiopian women to participate in sports. Much like the Jamaican men sprinters have helped Jamaican women also shine, I would expect the same for Ethiopian women. Hopefully, we have not heard the last of Ethiopian women in long distance running.

    The issues of drugs and doping are a problem in all sports (a blog article is needed to cover all the nuances), but in Almaz Ayana's case, I will salute her for her remarkable achievement and wish her well in the future. She is a trail blazer for Ethiopian women.

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    Here are the charts that I referenced above. It puts Almaz Ayana's world record in perspective.

    Men's 10,000 meter world record

    Women's 10,000 meter world record

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    I love seeing people break old record like this. Especially at the Olympics, where every record is basically at the tip top prime of each individual thing.