After the fall, a display of Olympic spirit
New Zealand runner Nikki Hamblin was lying on the track, dazed after a heavy fall and with her hopes of an Olympic medal over, when suddenly, there was a hand on her shoulder and a voice in her ear: "Get up. We have to finish this."
It was an American, Abbey D'Agostino, offering to help.
"I was like, "Yup, yup, you're right, this is the Olympics Games, we have to finish this,'" Hamblin said of the scene that warmed the hearts of fans during a qualifying heat of the women's 5,000 meters in Rio de Janeiro, as Hamblin and D'Agostino set aside their own hopes of making the final to look out for a fellow competitor.
It started when D'Agostino clipped Hamblin from behind and they both went sprawling with about 2,000 meters to go.
Hamblin fell heavily on her right shoulder, D'Agostino got up, but Hamblin was just lying there, and she appeared to be crying. Instead of running in pursuit of the others, D'Agostino crouched down, put her hands under the New Zealander's shoulders to help her up and softly urged her not to quit.
"That girl is the Olympic spirit right there," Hamblin said of D'Agostino. "I've never met her before . . . and isn't that just so amazing."
As it turned out, D'Agostino probably needed more help, and she soon realized she'd hurt her ankle badly in the fall, but she refused to give up, and ran nearly half the race with the injury. Hamblin did what she could, hanging back with D'Agostino for a little while to return the favor and offer encouragement.
"She helped me first, I tried to help her," said Hamblin, who eventually had to leave D'Agostino behind and was certain that the American would have to stop.
"I didn't even realize she was still running (and) when I turned around at the finish line and she's still running, I was like, wow," Hamblin said.
She waited for her new friend to cross the line and they hugged, only this time, it was D'Agostino who was in tears.
As D'Agostino was about to be taken away in a wheelchair, she stretched out her right hand and the two runners gripped each other's forearms for a few moments, after they had provided a memory that captured the Olympic spirit.
"I'm never going to forget that moment," Hamblin said. "When someone asks me what happened in Rio in 20 years' time, that's my story."