- 27 Aug 2004
Xing emerges from Ethiopian shadows
It was hard to look beyond the Ethiopians in the women's 10,000m. Over the course of the previous two world championships, athletes from the African country had taken five of the six medals on offer and they sent an intimidatingly strong trio to Athens in the shape of Ejagayehu Dibaba, two-time champion Deratu Tulu and Werknesh Kidane. All three were potential gold medallists, with the strongest non-Ethiopian challenge coming from British runner Paula Radcliffe.
The Briton had endured a poor Games in Athens, having dropped out of the marathon with injury, and despite taking an early lead in the 10,000m she was still clearly not in her best form. In the end, she fell off the pace and dropped outrace with more than five laps still to run.
That appeared to leave the way clear for the Ethiopians to secure a clean sweep of the podium, but there was one other athlete who was sticking with them. China's Xing Huina had won the junior world title the previous year, but was still considered an unknown quantity at the senior level. As it turned out, her lack of fame and profile probably proved to be her greatest strength.
The pack was still together on the last lap until Dibaba made a break from the front. Only Xing was able to keep pace with her and stayed on her shoulder down the back straight. Then, with the Athens crowd cheering the pair on, the Chinese runner made her move.
She passed Dibaba on the home straight and took the lead. Dibaba failed to regain the advantage. The Ethiopian later admitted that she thought Xing was actually a lap behind, so assumed that she was a backmarker, rather than the race leader!
And so both runners went over the line thinking they had taken the gold medal. First to cross was Xing, the actual winner, and then Dibaba, who punched the air in celebration, only to realise that the athlete she had thought was a lap behind her was actually the new champion!