In the short history of women's Olympic distance running, Ethiopia's Derartu Tulu tonight became the first woman to win a gold medal at two separate Olympic Games when she defeated teammate Gete Wami in a magnificent 10,000 metres.
In Olympic distance running First woman
to win a gold medal at two separate Olympic Games
Tulu won a wonderfully symbolic 10,000 metres at the 1992 Games in Barcelona, defeating Elana Meyer of South Africa at the first Games since South Africa's readmission into the Olympic movement. Black and white African woman embraced at the finish line, before sharing a lap of honor.
Tonight, Tulu took the lead at the bell and sprinted alone through the last 400 metres to win in Olympic record time of 30 minutes 17.49 seconds. Wami took second in 30:22.48 and the Atlanta champion, Fernanda Ribeiro of Portugal, gained the bronze in 32:22.88.
Afterwards, Tulu said the race had been a battle only between herself and Wami. "Fernanda and Tegla (Loroupe, of Kenya) were not in the competition. The competition was between the Ethiopians."
Comparing her two Olympic wins, she said: "In Barcelona, I was very young. Now I have a child and I'm very experienced."
Statistics can be dry, but there were magnificent numbers sprinkled through this race like confetti through a bride's veil. There was an Olympic record, national records to Ethiopia, Portugal and Ireland and a personal best among the first six finishers, who all broke the Olympic record set by Ribeiro in Atlanta.
With their performances tonight, Tulu, Wami, Ribeiro and Britain's Paula Radcliffe in fourth place, became the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh fastest women of all-time at the distance.
Standing just 158-centimetres (5 feet, 2 inches) tall, Derartu Tulu outran an impressive field in the women's 10,000-metre final in an Olympic record time of 30:17.49.
Tulu, who became the first black African woman to win an Olympic title when she won the same race in Barcelona in 1992, had only returned to competition last year after taking 1998 off to rehabilitate a knee injury and to have a child.
Her two-year-old daughter Tsion is still too young to appreciate her mother's magnificent achievements in the Olympic Stadium, but will still probably give her a special welcome when Tulu returns to the family farm near the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa on Thursday.
Some athletes say they are actually stronger when they return to competition after having a baby. Tulu's time on Saturday, which was far ahead of her Barcelona winning time of 31:06.02, seems to support the claim. The gracious winner holds some reservations about this theory, however.