Posted by: Joe English | August 17, 2008

Olympics: Shane Flanagan scores unbelievable bronze in 10,000M

BEIJING – It was anything but easy for either athlete, but Shalane Flanagan (Pittsboro, N.C.) overcame incredible odds to take bronze in the greatest women’s 10,000m in history.

The American record holder in the 10,000 and 5,000m, Flanagan had endured six hours of intense gastrointestinal distress, in the form of vomiting and diarrhea, Tuesday evening at Team USA training camp in Dalian, China. She continued to have gastrointestinal problems while working out for the next two days, and at one point her participation in Friday’s 10,000 was up in the air. But Flanagan gave it a go, and was part of history as a result.

Lornah Kiplagat of the Netherlands led practically from the gun, towing a lead group of 18 runners – including Americans Flanagan and Kara Goucher (Portland, Ore.) through 71-second and then 73-second laps. Kiplagat covered the first km in 3:00, the second in 3:00, the third in 3:04 and the fourth in 3:03. A lead pack of 15 passed 5 km in 15:09.98 with little change in the race. Flanagan sat in eighth and Goucher in 11th as Amy Yoder-Begley (Portland, Ore.) was approximately 175m back from the leaders.

Just past 6 km, covered in 19:13.5, Kiplagat, Elvan Abeylegesse of Turkey and Tirunesh Dibaba of Ethiopia began trading the lead. Linet Chepkwemoi Masai of Kenya moved up to third as Kiplagat began to drop back, with Lucy Kabuu Wangui of Kenya fourth to round out the lead pack. Flanagan moved up to fifth as 7 km was covered by the leaders in 21:14.46 and 8 km in 24:09.40. The pace was dropping rapidly, leaving Abeylegesse and Dibaba to duke it out for gold as they hit 9 km in 27:06:02.

With three laps to go, Flanagan moved up to fourth and was gaining on Masai, who approximately half a second ahead of the American record holder. Flanagan passed with 800m go to and looked all but assured of bronze.

Ahead of Flanagan, history was being made. In a furious final 400, Dibaba was first to the finish in 29:54.66, setting an Olympic record and becoming only the second woman to dip under 30:00 for the 10,000. Abeylegesse was second in an area record 29:56.32, with Flanagan next across in an American-record time of 30:22.22, breaking her own mark of 30:35.34 set in her 10 km debut earlier this year and becoming the second American woman ever to medal in this event at the Games. Lynn Jennings also won bronze in 1992. Masai was fourth in a world junior and Kenyan national record of 30:26.50. Goucher ended 10th in a personal-best 30:55.16, with Yoder-Begley 26th in 32:38.28.

Coming on the heels of Goucher’s bronze medal at the 2007 World Championships in Osaka, Flanagan’s performance marked the second consecutive major international championship in which an American has won a medal in the women’s 10,000.

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