Yanet Seyoum, Ethiopia's first ever Olympic swimmer, carries her country's flag at the opening ceremony. Photograph: Mike Blake/Reuters
When Yanet Seyoum took to the water for her Olympics 50m freestyle heat, it was a fair bet that most of her fellow competitors would not have endured a training regime of avoiding doggy-paddling tourists in a hotelswimming pool, or relied mainly on written instructions from a coach who lives in another city.
Seyoum - the first swimmer from Ethoipia to ever make it to the Olympics - came last in her heat and failed to make it to the semi-final. Her finishing time was a personal best of 32:41, a whole 2:40 slower than the heat winner Karin Clashing O'Reilly of Antigua and Barbuda and nearly eight seconds behind the fastest qualifier, the Netherlands' Ranomi Kromowidjojo.
But the 18-year-old, a lone swimmer in a country famed for its long distance runners, has high hopes for the future.
"I would like to see professional swimmers in my country," Seyoum said, speaking before the Olympics among the guests and leisure swimmers around the pool of the Ghion hotel, a popular hangout for Addis Ababa's middle classes. "But this requires swimming clubs."
Ethiopiahas won 38 Olympics medals, 18 of them gold, since the 1956 Games, every one of them in running events of 3,000m or longer. When you look at the country's swimming infrastructure it is not hard to see why the sport has not featured. The Ghion's pool, Olympic size but often cold and sometimes busy, is Seyoum's best option for training.
Her coach lives in Nazret, a city about an hour by bus from the capital, a trip Seyoum takes irregularly for instruction. And in the meantime? "Oh, no problem, everything is written here," she said, flipping through a written training programme the coach sends every week.
While Seyoum trained intensely for the Olympics – "I have been dreaming of this since I was a child" – she was realistic about her likely future occupation.
The English-speaking product of Ethiopia's middle classes – her father is a driver for an aid agency while her mother works for EthioTelecom – Seyoum is simultaneously taking an engineering degree at Addis Ababa Science and Technology University, a situation that put her training under strain. Just before the Olympics she was forced to cut her training back from seven days a week to five, in order to prepare for her end of year exams. She regularly worked until 1am, slept for five hours before going to university in the morning and the pool in the afternoon. "The most challenging thing is to combine my first year of engineering study and my training," she said. Seyoun learned to swim at the age of 12, taught by her father at a pool in Kombolcha in the north of Ethiopia, best known to outsiders as a UN base during the 1985 Ethiopian famine. "One day I participated in a swimming competition, for fun, and I won the silver medal. It's how everything started," she said.
Despite coming last in her heat, Seyoum will return home a champion. The news of her failure to qualify was posted on the website Ethio Sports. Soon after, one reader had thanked her for representing the country. Another, identifying themselves as Ken, was sure that it wouldn't be her last Olympic performance. "We are very proud of you to represent our beloved country for the first time (Swimming) in Olympic," he wrote. "I am sure you going to reward us with gold the year 2016. Thank you Yanet.
LONDON — Mo Farah produced a final-lap sprint to win a memorable gold in the men's Olympic 10,000m on Saturday that denied Ethiopian running legend Kenenisa Bekele a hat-trick of titles in the event.
The Somali-born Farah, who moved to Britain at the age of eight, timed 27min 30.42sec, with his American training partner Galen Rupp taking silver in 27:30.90, and Ethiopian Tariku Bekele claiming bronze in 27:31.43.
Tariku's brother and defending champion Kenenisa finished fourth (27:32.44), unable to come up with a kick to match that of Farah, the reigning world silver medallist in the distance.
It was Britain's third gold of the night in front of a packed home crowd in the Olympic Stadium, after Jessica Ennis won the heptathlon and Greg Rutherford took a surprise long jump title.
A tearful Farah was greeted on the track by his daughter Rhianna and seven-month pregnant wife Tania as the crowd went crazy.
"I just can't believe it, the crowd got so much behind me and was getting louder and louder," Farah said.
"I've just never experienced something like this and it doesn't come round often and to have it right on the doorstep and the amount of people supporting you and shouting out your name...
"It's never going to get better than this, this is the best moment of my life."
From the gun, Kenenisa Bekele raced straight to the front of the pack, Farah keen on his tail.
Kenyans Wilson Kiprop and former African junior champion Moses Masai, who placed fourth in the Athens Games in 2004, took up the running.
With 19 laps to go, Eritrea's former world cross-country champion Zersenay Tadese split the field open when he upped the pace to a punishing level for five laps.
The Bekele brothers and the second Eritrean in the field, Teklemariam Medhin, stuck close as Tadese notched up a succession of 1min 4sec laps.
At the halfway point, Kenyan Bedan Karoki Muchiri had taken up the running as Tadese momentarily flagged.
Kiprop dropped out with eight laps to go as his teammates Muchiri and Masai controlled the pace, Farah's training partner Galen Rupp moving up on their shoulder.
A compact leading peloton hit the line with 2km to go bristling for position, Farah running alongside Rupp behind Bekele and Muchiri.
In a tactical team move, Gebregziabher Gebremariam shot to the front with four laps remaining but did not have the steam to continue for long in front of the sell-out 80,000-capacity Olympic Stadium.
Farah hit the front at the bell to roars from the crowd and immediately bolted, taking Muchiri, the Bekeles and Rupp with him.
As he entered the home stretch to deafening noise with the crowd on their feet, Farah had enough in the tank to hold off Rupp and cap a remarkable night for Britain.
Kenenisa Bekele, who has slowly been coming back to form after spending two years battling a calf injury, came in a dejected figure in fourth.
Farah's gold was Britain's first ever in the 10,000m and the first medal of any kind over the distance since Mike McLeod's silver in the Los Angeles Games in 1984.
Rupp's silver was the US team's first since Billy Mills' victory in the 1964 Games in Tokyo.
"I'm thrilled for Mo," said Rupp. "It's unreal, two training partners coming in first and second.
"I couldn't be happier. I wouldn't be where I am today without him. We work hard. I'm the lucky one - I get to train with the best middle distance runner in the world."