I’ve been fortunate enough to see a lot of the Olympics this year, thanks to the wide amount of events being streamed over the Internet and a simple Nexus tablet sitting on my desk. I’ve seen quite a bit of history making, lots of first medals for a country or victories for an individual after a really long dry spell, and world records being smashed to bits. My favorite thing to have seen, was an event that embodies athleticism, competition, and heart beyond gold, silver, and bronze.
You may have heard the story already, but having been a competitive runner, let’s look at the great moments in this story.
A little over half way through the women’s 5K (3.1 miles) qualifying event, Abbey D’Agostino of the USA accidentally clips Nikki Hamblin of New Zealand and they both goth down. Amber gets up right away to continue racing. We can pause right here and reflect on an important point right here. In running, even at longer distances, every second counts. The fine tuning that goes into pacing each lap out just right is crucial. When a fall like this happens, especially at this level, your chances of winning become slim to none. It would be easy to simply hang up the towel and call it a day. But Abbey doesn’t do this. She gets up, and is ready to race until the end, no matter what. I suspect her body was already pretty tired by this point, so making the effort to continue on requires an extra level of strength and drive.
But wait! Something more amazing happens! Abbey reaches over and helps Nikki, who is still on the ground and not looking as well, up and encourages her to continue. As I mentioned a moment ago, every second counts, and doubly so if there is even a slight chance to qualify for the finals. Abbey sacrifices her time and her energy to help a fellow runner up and to push on. Sometimes the race isn’t about the time or the place you have, but making it through the distance. In addition, the person she is helping is a competitor, a person that could finish one second ahead of her and prevent her from reaching the finals, or even medaling. Sacrificing your own potential gain so that somebody else can continue shows tremendous character.
Now we have two women, in pain from a fall, but not giving up, determined to finish the race they had trained so hard and so long for. Having recently run part my RAGNAR relay with an injured knee, I know the will and fortitude it takes to continue running with the pain that is dragging your body down. You can see this in the eyes and body language of the two women, especially Nikki through the rest of the race. They could have simply put in a few hundred more meters, decided it wasn’t worth it, and walked away. The bravery and fortitude shown here is inspiring.
Abbey finishes a bit before Nikki. She could have headed to the showers, talked with her coach, or simply walked off her race. But she doesn’t. She comes back to cheer Nikki on through her final straightaway and welcome her to the finish line, having finished the race when it was probably so difficult to do so.
It was encouraging and beautiful. It was a reminder that often competition isn’t to necessarily prove oneself better than the other, but to push each other to achieve feats that wouldn’t normally be accomplished alone. Here were two warriors with virtue. There were no medals involved, but this was my favorite and most inspiring moment at the Olympics this year. Here’s some video from it. Let me know what your favorite moment was.