American Abbey D’Agostino did not realize how badly she was injured when she stopped to make sure fellow Olympian Nikki Hamblin of New Zealand would be able to continue her race after a precipitous fall on the track.
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Early in the race, D’Agostino helped Hamblin to her feet after a fall that tripped them both in their 5,000m race. When D’agostino fell again, this time in screaming in agony, Hamblin stopped to return the favor.
Hamblin’s selfless concern for her fellow athlete drew praise from around the world as the 28-year-old athlete gave up her opportunity to win a medal to help the fallen runner.
— NBC Olympics (@NBCOlympics) August 17, 2016
Though D’Agostino urged to Hamblin to continue racing, the England-born athlete refused to leave the American’s side until a wheelchair could be brought to take her away.
Both competitors were granted spots in the final, but D’agostina’s injury to her ACL and MCL kept her from the race entirely. Hamblin finished in last place, but both athletes remained surprisingly upbeat.
D’agostina stated, “This whole time here [God] has made clear to me that my experience in Rio was going to be about more than my race performance — and as soon as Nikki got up I knew that was it.”
Hamblin feels her act of kindness will have a lasting effect. She said, “You can make friends in the moments that really should break your heart.”
Now the IOC has decided to award both athletes the prestigious Pierre de Coubertin medal. Also known as the International Fair Play Committee Award, the medal has only been awarded 17 times in the history of the Olympic games.
The award is named for the founder of the International Olympic Committee and is reserved for athletes, volunteers or officials who demonstrate the Olympic sprit and outstanding sportsmanship.
“Winning this award is overwhelming,” said Hamblin. “I am proud of what we did and truly believe that you can be both a competitor and kind and responsive at the same time.”
She added, “Everyone comes here to compete but there are a lot of people who don’t achieve that and the journey is really important too. That was one of those journeys and it has gone on to be one of the most important moments of my life.”