As much as we love the Olympic athletes who are so skilled that they dominate their respective sport — Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt, the U.S. men’s basketball team — we also crave something else during these Games that go beyond the competition.
We crave that Olympic moment.
Yes, the quadrennial games are meant to be a fierce competition. And yes, for some countrymen and women, there is a personal expectation for them to honorably and successfully represent their country. Case and point: an Egyptian was ejected from the Rio games after he refused to shake hands with his Israeli opponent following a Judo match.
But underlying the competitiveness is a spirit of sportsmanship. Of unity and bonding. Of determination and personal spirit. Sure, we’re all from different countries, but this is an opportunity to show the world that we can all get along.
Sometimes, it takes sport to show that.
There’s a reason why the story of Derek Redmond is emblazoned in our brains. During the 400-meter semifinal in the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, he tore his hamstring and collapsed to one knee in pain.
Even while medics ran to attend to him, he leaped up and essentially skipped along the track on his one able leg to continue the race, even though all the other sprinters had already finished. If that wasn’t inspirational enough, his father emerged from out of no where to help his son, who at this point was bawling in tears, to finish the race.
Had Derek Redmond won that race in routine fashion, no one would remember him. But because of the unique circumstances of his last-place finish (in fact, he was disqualified because he received outside aid) he will never be forgotten.
Well, it wasn’t quite Redmondesque, but we had a similar moment on Tuesday during the women’s 500-meter race.
With two kilometers remaining (about 1.25 miles), Abbey D’Agostino of the United States and Nikki Hamblin of New Zealand accidentally tripped one another up and fell hard to the ground.
At that point, their fate was sealed. Neither would win.
D’Agostino got back up first. Hamblin remained on the ground, distraught.
But the American urged her on. “Get up. We have to finish this,” she told her. Hamblin got to her feet, and the women ran together before D’Agostino collapsed. Hamblin tried to return the favor and help her up, but it was obvious that D’Agostino was seriously hurt.
Hamblin continued on, and somehow, D’Agostino also finished despite tearing her ACL. But who was waiting to give her a hug at the finish line? Hamblin.
The story has captured the hearts of people across the world. The two young women did not know each other before the race. But now their day-old friendship is the embodiment of the Olympic spirit.
The Olympics really couldn’t have come at a better time. For the last week and a half, I’ve barely uttered the name Dona —
You know what. I’m not going to do it.
Anyway, since the fall happened in the heats, the two women amazingly would have both been able to race in the event’s medal round on Friday despite their poor finish times. D’Agostino is obviously unable to.
Hamblin, however, will race for the both of them.
Here’s another video of what happened overlayed with uplifting piano music.
Because let’s face it, everything is more uplifting when it’s overlayed with piano music.