Olympic Spirit Rewarded: U.S. And New Zealand Runners Who Came Last But Helped Each Other Cross Finish Line After Fall Moved To The Finals

In a terrific display of sportsmanship, American runner Abbey D’Agostino and runner Nikki Hamblin from New Zealand helped each other cross the finish line, albeit for last place, after they collided in their semi-final race and both tumbled to the ground. The simple act has become a symbol of the Olympic spirit, and Distractify reported that officials have rewarded the two by granting them a spot in the finals.

The two athletes were about 3,000 meters into the 5,000m heats when American D’Agostino accidentally clipped the heel of New Zealand’s Hamblin. The accidental touch sent the Kiwi tumbling to the ground with the American then tripping over her and crashing as well while their fellow competitors carried on with the race. Once on her feet, instead of moving on to continue in the race, D’Agostino turned to help up Hamblin, who had taken a pretty hard tumble and was lying prone on the track.

In an interview later, Hamblin, 24, recalls how the suddenness of the crash and fall affected her.

“That girl is the Olympic spirit right there. When I went down it 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!’ 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’.”

The two women, both 24 years old, soon switched roles in the helping hand department as it became apparent that USA’s D’Agostino had injured her knee in the fall and had difficulty walking. The injured runner then tried to urge the New Zealander to go on without her but she would not and instead she helped to hold her competitor and provided her with encouragement to amble towards the finish line. It is a move strongly reminiscent of the 1956 race when John Landy lent a hand to fellow Australian Ron Clarke, and will surely be as immortalized in the memories of the people.

Once at the finish line, the two athletes shared a heartwarming hug and exchanged smiles despite the fact that they had come last and would surely not qualify for the finals. D’Agostino managed to get Hamblin to go on without her at some point into their walk and eventually crossed the finish line in last place with a time of 17 minutes and 10 seconds while the other woman came in second to last after 16 minutes and 43 seconds. The winner of the heat was Almaz Ayana, from Ethiopia, who completed the race over two minutes before the duo who fell.

Hamblin not only waited D’Agostino on to amble across the finish line, but she cheered her on the entire time. Strangers at the beginning of the race, the two female athletes ended their 5000 meter race eternally linked — not by victory but through a simple act of kindness. The two embraced in an emotion-filled hug before D’Agostino was taken away in a wheelchair to do an MRI scan that later revealed that she had only twisted her ankle.

Abbey D’Agostino is forever in the good graces of Nikki Hamblin, who when asked said that she had no words to express how grateful she was for the assistance and sportsmanship that was displayed. For her part Hamblin said she was amazed by the spirit D’Agostino had, having only awe for the woman who “ran 4½ laps barely being able to run.”

According to The Age, Hamblin said that the moment was a true show that the Olympics is about more than winning a medal, and she has high hopes for the American and her future in the sport.

“Being such a good human being, she’s going to go so far. You come into an Olympic Games and everyone wants to win, everyone wants to medal. But really as disappointing as this experience is there is so much more to this than a medal. When someone asks me what happened in Rio in 20 years time, that’s my story.”

[Photo by Martin Meissner/AP Images]