Sports, they say, brings out the best in one’s character. On one hand is the competition that pushes one beyond his own known boundaries. On the other is the discipline and the respect players develop for the game as well as for others. So, when the sporting event is as big as the Olympic Games and the competitors the very best in the world, one can expect cut-throat competition as well as the best display of sportsmanship.
The Rio Olympics just witnessed a moment that sets examples and also acts as an inspiration for those who thought of sports otherwise.
The event was the women's 5,000 metres when two athletes – Abbey D’Agostino from America and Nikki Hamblin from New Zealand – bumped into each other and tripped during the race. What followed was a display of two perfect strangers turning personal disaster into a triumph of Olympic goodwill.
American Abbey D'Agnostino and Nikki Hamblin of New Zealand were 3,000m into the race today when D'Agnostino appeared to clip Hamblin's heel, sending both tumbling to the ground.
Instead of ruing the fact that their Olympic dreams were over, the two athletes put on a display of sportsmanship that will go a long way in the history of the Games.
D'Agnostino, 24, immediately got up to help her rival - then, as it became clear that she had a right ankle injury, Hamblin tried to help her continue. With a hand on her shoulder and the words “Get up, get up, we have to finish this,” Hamblin persuaded her American competitor not to quit when they tripped over each other and hit the deck hard during the qualifiers.
Both athletes attempted to start chasing after the pack that had left them. But D'Agostino could not keep going as her knee had apparently twisted awkwardly in the fall.
She told Hamblin to go on as she collapsed on to all fours on the track. But the camera then came back to D'Agostino and she was back on her feet and running again.
Almaz Ayana won the heat in 15:04.35, and Hamblin, who continued on as well, ran 16:43. D'Agostino, who has previously run 15:03 in the event, finished last in 17:10.02.
Hamblin was waiting at the finish line for her and the two runners shared an emotional hug.
D'Agostino was then taken away in a wheelchair, but still managed a smile.
Hamblin said: ‘When I went down, I was like "What’s happening, why am I on the ground?" And suddenly there's this hand on my shoulder like "Get up, get up, we have to finish this."
“Isn’t that just so amazing?” Hamblin said. “I’m never going to forget that moment. When someone asks me what happened in Rio in 20 years’ time, that’s my story.”
Perhaps it’s too much to ask that everyone embrace the Olympic spirit. But enough athletes are doing so to keep that noble idea alive.