As one woman commented online regarding the events of this story: “Sometimes the most inspirational moments don’t involve medals at all.”
On the second week of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio, an event happened that gained worldwide attention on both the media and the internet community. It was praised as the crystallization of fair play, sportsmanship, the power of sports to make new friends, and the Olympic Spirit itself. What happened during the second heat of the women’s 5000 meter run, for a brief moment, would impress upon everyone who watched a sense of nobility in athletics, and an example on how to ideally behave in competition.
That Tuesday, August 16, runners Abby D’Agostino of the US and Nikki Hamblin of New Zealand were among the 17 runners for Heat 2 of the women’s 5000 meters held in the João Havelange Olympic Stadium. Some 4 laps away before the competitors could cross the finish line, Hamblin, who found himself in the middle of the tightly bunched pack of running women, lost her footing and fell face forward onto the rubberized track. Agostino, who was running immediately behind her could not stop or swerve away in time and collided with Hamlin full force. The two women slumped to a heap, with Agostino falling on her side and Hamlin rolling into a fetal position, crying.
Agostino got up first and, rather than hurry away to try and catch up with the pack, put her arms on Hamlin’s shoulders and helped her back on her feet, encouraging her all the while with, “Get up! We have to finish this.”
Grateful for the assist, Hamlin got back to running with Agostino. But a short while later the American, who turned out to have been hurt worse in the collision, began limping and fell down, favoring an ankle. This time it was the New Zealander who helped her rescuer to stand up and, with Agostino still smarting, they ran – or rather loped – on towards the finish line together, the last two to cross it for that heat. The two them embraced in relief and a newfound friendship before Agostino was carted away in a wheelchair.
After the race Hamlin told reporters how she was confused at first after falling down, but that she was grateful to Agostino for her good turn. “That girl is the Olympic spirit right there,” she said.
Wonderful things were in store for them after that fateful race. The International Fair Play Committee and the International Olympic Committee awarded each of them the Pierre de Coubertin award – named after the founder of the Modern Olympic Games – for their sportsmanship embodying the Olympic Spirit on August 20. Even better, the judges actually qualified them both for the women’s 5,000 meters final heat on August 19. Abby D’Agostino was too injured to take her spot, while Hamlin was still weary of her tumble that she finished last.
Ultimately it didn’t matter for them. They played fair, and the world for a time feels all the better for their actions.
Photo Credits to www.sportingnews.com, www.independent.co.uk