Ethiopia’s Selemon Barega won gold and Australia’s Patrick Tiernan won hearts in a memorable men’s 10,000m final at the Tokyo Olympics tonight.
Barega upset and out-ran Ugandan stars Joshua Cheptegei and Jacob Kiplimo to take glory in 27:43.22.
Tiernan, meanwhile, was right in the mix for much of the race but couldn’t keep stride with Africa’s big guns as they put the hammer down in the draining Tokyo heat and humidity.
A slowing Tiernan collapsed with exhaustion with the finish in sight but bravely picked himself off the track to eventually stumble across the line.
It was good enough for 19th in a time of 28:35.06 – but that’s not what will be remembered.
Officials helped a distressed Tiernan into a wheelchair as the Aussie shook his head in disbelief.
He needn’t have.
Rugby star Jono Lance tweeted that he had “never been prouder to be an Aussie.”
“I just watched my favourite moment of the Games. Patrick Tiernan competing in the 10k final just put in one of the all time efforts and I recommend all Aussies to watch the end of the race.”
Tiernan, 26, is also due to compete in the 5000m in Tokyo, with the heats on Tuesday.
He was reported to be recovering well after receiving medical attention and rehydrating.
It is not the first time Tiernan has embodied everything good about sport.
Barega’s last-lap burst was good enough as he moved out in front with about 300m to go and held off the late charge by the two Ugandans, who were expected to go 1-2 in the first track final of the Games.
Barega had no major titles in the 10,000m before tonight. His first was the big one.
He also put Ethiopia back on top in the 10,000m after Great Britain’s Mo Farah claimed gold at the last two Olympics.
Farah isn’t running in Tokyo after failing to make the British team.
The last Ethiopian to win the 10,000m at the Olympics was Kenenisa Bekele, who won the event in 2004 and 2008.
Barega won at a largely empty Olympic Stadium.
The men’s 10,000m was the only medal event on the first day of track competition. – with AP