You are just this side of the white line dividing your track lane from where you are fighting nerves and tension to keep focus on the matter at hand: an Olympic race that you have been training for, probably all your life, but definitely nearly round the clock the last 4 years. Your time, money, sanity…all has been poured into this race.
The gun sounds, and you’re off. You’re gaining on your opponents, finding a good rhythm, understanding what needs to happen in order for you to make it the front of the pack. Everything feels good, reminding you perhaps of one of the best practice times you’ve had. This is it, this is the race that counts and you feel that everything you’ve worked for these last few years was worth it…and then you fall.
It is devastating.
Would you be in the mood to get up and finish the race, in apparent defeat — let alone encourage the same from a rival who also fell?
I’d like to think I would take the higher road, but I’m sure that I’d be just as tempted to wallow in self-pity and hope the earth would swallow me up, especially if I was injured.
But a New Zealand runner in a heat of the 5,000-meter qualifying races at the Olympics, Nikki Hamblin, didn’t even seem to blink at the idea of taking that higher road after she fell during the race. Nikki and American Abbey D’Agostino both fell in the same tangle during the race, and although Nikki was uninjured, she chose to go to Abbey’s aid rather than continue with the race!
Not so fast, though — it was a joint effort. First, Abbey helped Nikki up, and then when Abbey — whose leg was injured — fell again, Nikki helped her up. And Nikki — her compassion is amazing! — opted to help Abbey finish the race, side-by-side, giving up her own medal chances.
It merits saying again that Nikki was uninjured, and though falling is setback in any race, we are talking about the 5,000m and she could’ve protested the race and had another chance at qualifying for the finals. (It turns out that the U.S. team did protest Abbey’s race, as Nikki is who had clipped her originally, causing the fall, but Abbey was unable to race again due to her injury.)
Nikki and Abbey definitely didn’t make the podium, or anywhere near it, but both women have since been honored with the International Fair Play Committee Award for epitomizing Olympic values of sportsmanship.
We don’t hear about these types of stories too often, especially in sports, but wow, what an inspiration to us parents who hope to pass down the value of cooperation and sportsmanship in a culture that seems bent on competition and winning at (sometimes) nearly any cost!
I think we could all use a reminder at times that what we so often hear in the news isn’t a full reflection of our society, that we are surrounded everyday by people who are kind, compassionate, and make selfless decisions in situations where they are at a disadvantage. There is a lot of good in this world. I wish the news covered it a bit more often, but at least we get glimpses like this.