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Ayana won gold in a world record of 29:17, while Huddle displayed peak fitness in the fastest championship performance of her career.
Huddle broke the previous American record of 30:22.22 set by Shalane Flanagan at the 2008 Olympics, which was good for bronze.
Unlike the 2015 World Championships, the women's 10,000m final was dictated by a fast pace from the gun, and Huddle bravely rode the momentum.
Alice Aprot Nawowuna of Kenya established an early lead by taking the field out in 3:01 for 1000m and 5:55 for 2000m. By the 5,000-meter mark, the competition for a medal was down to a select group of women which included 2015 5K world champion Ayana and defending Olympic champion Tirunesh Dibaba. Amazingly, Nawowuna took the group through 5,000m in 14:46 for a glimpse at world-record potential.
Huddle followed in 14:55—just a few seconds slower than her American record of 14:42. Despite falling off the lead pack's blistering pace, Huddle maintained her composure through the remainder of the grueling race.
Ayana went on to shatter the previous world record of 29:31 set by Wang Junxia of China in 1993. The Ethiopian's championship performance beat silver medalist Vivian Cheruiyot and bronze medalist Tirunesh Dibaba by 15 seconds.
Cheruiyot, Dibaba, and fourth-place finisher Nawowuna's performances now stand at No. 3, No. 4 and No. 5 on the world all-time list.
Huddle closed for sixth overall—the best Olympic finish of her career so far.
What @MollyHuddle just did will be completely lost to a casual Olympic viewer. But every US track fan sits in awe!— Kyle Merber (@TheRealMerb) August 12, 2016
Congrats to @MollyHuddle for the AR! 30:13 going out in 14:55. Yikes, thats impressive.— Daniel Huling (@DanielHuling) August 12, 2016
Congratulations @MollyHuddle on your new AR!!!! Wow!!! Stud!!— emma coburn (@emmajcoburn) August 12, 2016