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The Historic Series on Olympic Running (VII): Women’s 10,000m

So far, only Kathrin Ullrich and Uta Pippig have made it to the finals (since 1988)


In four weeks, the Olympic Games will be opening in Athens. Each week we have been and will continue introducing one of the eleven running disciplines, as well as naming the favourites for the Olympic gold medals.
This series on the history of Olympic running will follow the weekly series on running which focuses on Athens 2004 —out of respect for the great achievements and as an inspiration for imitation.

Today we will continue with women’s 10,000m.

The women’s 10,000m was first introduced to the Olympic programme in 1988 in Seoul. Strangely, the women continued to only run the 3000m (rather than the 5000m, like the men) in Seoul, and even four years later in Barcelona, as well.

10,000m - the Ethiopian distance!?

The runners from Ethiopia have taken home four medals, of which two were gold. In this relatively young discipline that makes them the most successful nation, ahead of the Soviet Union and Portugal, both with one gold and one bronze medal.
The German women, with Kathrin Ullrich and her fourth place finish, have been close to a medal.
7 countries share the 12 medals.

Kathrin Ullrich is the best German woman 10,000m runner at the Olympic Games so far.
Her two 4th-place final finishes and a 7th place finish by Uta Pippig are Germany’s best results.
Overview of the distribution of medals of the most successful countries in the 10,000m:

Germany: 1 x 4th place / 1 x seventh place

ETH: 2 G / 1 S / 1 B
URS: 1 G / 0 S / 1 B
POR: 1 G / 0 S / 1 B
GBR: 0 G / 1 S
RSA: 0 G / 1 S
CHN: 0 G / 1 S
USA: 0 G / 0 S / 1 B

Seoul 1988 – Kathrin Ullrich fought out a 4th-place finish

The Norwegian world record holder Ingrid Kristiansen had to drop out of the finals after 2,800m due to a foot injury. Liz McColgan was not able to shake off Olga Bondarenko despite her efforts to pick up the pace, and the Soviet European champion became Olympic champion with an excellent final sprint.
Kathrin Ullrich, who had great potential, may have “taken on more than she could handle,“ so wrote "Leichathletik", “when she tried to follow the Norwegian world record holder like a shadow, who then left her running on her own when she dropped out.
When Liz McColgan closed the gap with the followers, Kathrin Ullrich no longer had much left to counter with.“.

Finals (September 30):
1. Olga Bondarenko (URS) 31:05.21 OR – 2. Elizabeth McColgan (GBR) 31:08.44 – 3. Jelena Shupijewa (URS) 31:19.82 – 4. Kathrin Ullrich 31:29.27

Barcelona 1992 – Uta Pippig seventh – Ullrich and Pressler in the preliminaries

Liz McColgan, the previous year’s world champion in Tokyo, was chased by all. Elana Meyer and Derartu Tulu were the best runners on the last laps. According to “Leichtathletik”, “Uta Pippig (SCC), who always kept at the front and was rewarded for her consequent attitude and running plan with a 7th place finish in 31:36.45, made quite an impression.”

“Both other German participants, Kathrin Ullrich and Kerstin Pressler“ (both of Berlin), wrote “Leichtathletik“, were victims of the second preliminary 6 days previous. One should mention the conditions: 28°C (after 10 p.m.!) and 73 percent humidity! Kathrin Ullrich gave up after about 5.200m, at which point she had already lost contact with the leading group, while Kerstin Pressler ran courageously but beaten on to the finish to 13th place in 33:17.88”.

Finals (August 7):
1. Derartu Tulu (ETH) 31:06.02 – 2. Elena Meyer (RSA) 31 :11.75 – 3. Lynn Jennings (USA) 31:19.89 – 4. Huandi Zhong (CHN) 31:21.08 – 5. Liz McColgan (GBR) 31:26.11 – 6. Xiuting Wang (CHN) 31:28.06 – 7. Uta Pippig 31:36.45

Atlanta 1996 – Kathrin Ullrich-Weßel is back

Kathrin Ullrich-Weßel achieved the great accomplishment of making it to the third Olympic Games in a row for the 10,000m in Atlanta. But luck was not with her, and she came in 13th in the preliminaries in 33:31.67
1. Fernanda Ribeiro (POR) 31:01.63 – 2. Junxia Wang (CHN) 31:02.58 – 3. Gete Wami (ETH) 31:06.56 – 4. Derartu Tulu (ETH) 31:10.46

Sydney 2000 – Petra Wassiluk in the preliminaries

The preliminaries (in 33:23.03) were unfortunately the end station for Petra Wassiluk. The defending champion, Ribeiro, was not able to hold her title. The results from Atlanta were “turned around”.
The current world record holder in the marathon, Paula Radcliffe, came in 4th, and Tegla Loroupe, the world record holder from the BERLIN MARATHON 1999 came in 5th.
1. Derartu Tulu (ETH) 30:17.49 – 2. Gete Wami (ETH) 30:22.48 – 3. Fernanda Ribeiro (POR) 30:22.88 – 4. Paula Radcliffe (GBR) 30:26.97 – 5. Tegla Loroupe (KEN) 30:37.26

The women’s 10,000m reflects the current situation for long distance running for the German women at the Olympics. The other countries are taking off at the lead. That is not something one can whitewash, but also nothing to be condemned.
The hope for the future can only lie in an attempt to keep the distance to the leading countries to minimum. But that can only happen when the promising youth in this country are sought out, cultivated and supported.
Horst Milde

Interesting tips and supplementary information on the great Olympic history of the addressed topics may be sent to:


Women’s 800m (Historic Olympic Series I):
Men’s 1500m (Historic Olympic Series II:)
Men’s 800m (Historic Olympic Series III):
Women’s 1500m (Historic Olympic Series IV):
Women’s 5000m (Historic Olympic Series V):
Menss 5000m (Historic Olympic Series VI):

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