Almaz Ayana started her running career as a steeplechaser. She won the silver medal at the African Junior Championships back in 2009. She won races but could not improve her personal best of 9:22.51. In 2011 she tried to run a 5000m for the first time but she also kept on running steeple races. In 2013 she could not qualify for the World Championships 3000mSC so she decided to give it a try in the 5000m. This turned out to be a good move, as she ran 14:25.84 in Paris. Her decision to focus on the 5000m paid off as she won the bronze medal at the World Championships in Moscow. One year later she won the African Championships 5000m by beating Genzebe Dibaba.
In 2015 she surprised the world by setting a new personal best of 14:14.32 over 5000 meters at the Shanghai Diamond League. She lowered her personal best by more than 10 seconds. This time made her the third fastest athlete over 5000m ever, behind world record holder Tirunesh Dibaba and Meseret Defar. A few months later she ran the 5000m at the World Championships in Beijing. No woman managed to defeat Genzebe Dibaba that year but Almaz made her move with 2000 meters to go and nobody was able to respond. She crossed the line in a championship record of 14:26.83 with the biggest 5000m winning margin in World Championships history.
At the Ethiopian 10,000m trials in 2016, Almaz ran one of the fastest debuts in history by clocking 30:07 and she earned a spot in the Olympic team for Rio de Janeiro. The 10,000m final took place on the first day of the Olympics. The Kenyan Aprot set an early high pace and Ayana surged to the front after crossing 5k. She speeded up and ran an incredible 29:17.46 to win Olympic gold. She smashed the world record that already stood for 23 years. The first 13 women all ran national or personal records in this fast Olympic final. One week later she won the bronze Olympic medal in the 5000m.