Taking silver behind Dita was Kenya’s Catherine “The Great” Ndereba, who outsprinted China’s Zhou Chunxiu by a second, 2:27:06 to 2:27:07. China’s Xiaolin Zhu placed fourth while Kenya’s Martha Komu placed fifth. Also notable were Great Britain’s World Record Holder Paula Radcliffe who overcame a lack of conditioning caused by injuries to finish 23rd and American Record Holder Deena Kastor, who dropped out early with an apparent foot injury.
Prior to the race, much attention was given to the potentially difficult conditions as Beijing’s notorious heat, humidity, and pollution were expected to play a large role. Fortunately the conditions were much better than anticipated, with temperatures in the high 70’s throughout, only about 75% humidity and a light rain at times. The race began with Britain’s Liz Yelling leading a tightly-bunched pack through a fairly relaxed five miles. The most notable piece of early action was the withdrawal of Kastor, whose plans to improve upon her bronze medal performance in Athens were ruined by a “pop” in her foot around the 5k mark. The pace continued to lag until around the 10 mile mark, which was reached in 57:49 by a pack of about 40 women. Shortly thereafter Constantina Tomescu-Dita moved to the front and quickly began to pull away. Dita methodically built her lead to as much as 90 seconds over the next few miles and never let up, keeping her form and breaking away from the field.
China’s Zhou Chunxiu and Kenya’s Catherine Ndereba led the chase pack for much of the latter stages of the race, but were never able to gain significant ground on Dita. The second group dwindled to 15 about 15 miles into the race and was down to 7 when Britain’s Radcliffe fell off around Mile 21. In the last few miles China’s Chunxiu and Zhu battled Kenya’s Ndereba and Komu for the remaining medals after Dita had clinched victory. The four entered the Bird’s Nest with Chunxiu and Ndereba a few steps ahead of Zhu and Komu and then battled to the finish with Ndereba followed by Chunxiu, Zhu, and Komu. Blake Russell was the top American, finishing 27th in 2:33:13 as teammates Deena Kastor and Magdalena Lewy-Boulet dropped out.
For Constantina Tomescu-Dita, this win marks a triumphant return from injury and redemption from her 20th place finish in Athens. Constantina grew up on a farm in Romania but now lives and trains in Boulder Colorado. Runner-up Catherine Ndereba equaled her silver medal performance from the 2004 Olympics, while bronze medalist Zhou Chunxiu upheld the national pride of the host country. Their performances were cheered wildly by the spectators in a packed Bird’s Nest, and should be remembered for years to come.