I imagine you’ve watched at least some Olympic coverage over the last week and a half, but there’s a story I want to share if you haven’t been keeping up as closely as I’ve been.
This isn’t a story of Team USA winning gold. It isn’t about the dominance of Simone Biles or Michael Phelps. It actually isn’t about any medal or close finish. It’s about that mysterious thing that only pokes its head out a few times (if any) at the Olympic Games we know as the Olympic spirit.
It can be easy for us to forget that these athletes are human beings just like we are. They might have more notoriety than we do, they might have more money than we do, and they have the athletic ability we simply don’t. But we’re all human. Every one of us.
And two athletes put that on full display yesterday. Abbey D’Agostino from Team USA and Nikki Hamblin from New Zealand. The American clipped Hamblin and both fell to the track during their 5000M race. Abbey got to her feet first, but rather than proceed with the race she leaned down and encouraged Hamblin to get up and finish because it’s the Olympics. And Hamblin did. She got up. But then D’Agostino went down again. She’d injured her knee in the fall. This time it was Hamblin encouraging her to get up and finish.
They finished in the last two positions in their heat. Both would later be advanced to the final even though they didn’t qualify. But only Hamblin will compete. Abbey D’Agostino tore her ACL in the fall and collision. She ran more than a mile with a torn ACL. And the first person to meet her as she crossed the finish line was Nikki Hamblin.
I imagine the story is being shared more by the US media and in New Zealand, but there’s no doubt that these two women both gained millions of new fans and supporters over the last 24 hours. Not for being elite athletes. Not for winning gold for themselves and their country. Not for their personal stories that most viewers don’t know about. But because even in the midst of the highest athletic competition these two women forgot that they’re competing against each other. In those trying moments on the track it was more important to both of them to look out for their fellow human being rather than at their own standing in the race.
I love sports more than any person I know. But these women show how small sport really is. No one would have questioned either of them had they gotten up and continued on without looking back. But they didn’t.
Suffice it to say I’m a fan of both Nikki and Abbey now because they are the embodiment of what the Olympics are all about.
You can see what happened here, although the video won’t play if you’re not in the USA.