New Zealand middle-distance runner Nikki Hamblin was caught up in a dramatic incident at the athletics stadium today.
Hamblin and American Abbey d’Agostino were involved in a fall early in the their 5000m heat. Hamblin appeared to trip after clipping the inside curb of the track and brought down d’Agostino.
They both looked stunned, but d’Agostino spoke to Hamblin, and they helped each other to their feet.
Both runners, though in discomfort, carried on and finished the race.
It appeared that would be the end of it and that they would both be eliminated because their times were well outside those required for qualifying.
After the American limped to the finish, she and Hamblin hugged, then D’Agostino was taken from the track in a wheelchair.
Hamblin had quite a story to tell afterwards.
“I went down, and I was like, ‘What's happening? Why am I on the ground?’ Then suddenly this hand on my shoulder, like ‘Get up, get up, we have to finish this,’ and I was like, ‘Yup, yup, you're right. This is the Olympic Games. We have to finish this."
“I'm so grateful for Abbey for doing that for me. That girl is the Olympic spirit right there. I've never met her before, like I've never met this girl before, and isn't that just so amazing? Such an amazing woman.
“Regardless of the race and the result on the board, that's a moment that you're never ever going to forget for the rest of your life, that girl shaking my shoulder, like, ‘Come on, get up’.”
Hamblin leaned over and helped the American to her feet.
“If I can even give her like 1 per cent back of what she gave me when she helped me get up off the track that would be amazing. I can't even put into words how amazing it is that she actually finished. She's hurt.
“She could hardly stand up. She helped me first. I tried to help her. She was pretty bad. I didn't even realise she was still running. When I turned around at the finish line and she's still running I was like, 'Wow'.
"When you're at this level you know how hard it is to get here. There's just a mutual understanding of how much everyone puts into it. I'm never going to forget that moment. When someone asks me what happened in Rio in 20 years' time, that's my story."
There was a happy sequel when three runners (including Austrian Jennifer Wenth) were advanced by athletics officials to the final after it was decided none was to blame for the fall.
The fine sportsmanship of Hamblin and d’Agostino became a huge talking point on social media in the hours after the race, with both women lauded for the Olympic spirit they had shown.Rio 2016 Olympic Summer Games Nikki Hamblin Athletics