RIO DE JANEIRO, Aug. 16 (UPI) -- She could have kept running, pursuing an Olympic dream after four years of rigorous training.
But what Abbey D'Agostino did Tuesday during the women's 5,000 meter event required something more than muscle or skill. It required one of the best characteristics available to humans: compassion.
During the race, the Topsfield, Mass., runner got tangled with New Zealand's Nikki Hamblin. D'Agostino clipped Hamblin's foot during the run and Hamblin fell to the ground, D'Agostino tumbling as well. D'Agostino then jumped back up to her feet. But instead of running away from her fallen opponent, D'Agostino helped Hamblin up.
"Come on, get up," D'Agostino told Hamblin, who recalled the encounter for USA Today. "We have to finish this race."
"Everyone wants to win and get a medal, but as disappointing as it is, there is so much more to this," Hamblin said. "It is just a mutual understanding of how much everyone puts into it. For sure (we have) a friendship now. When someone asks me what happened in Rio in 20 years time, that is my story. She is my story."
As both runners resumed toward the finish, D'Agostino was hobbling, grimacing in pain. D'Agostino suffered an injury during the fall, later revealed to be her ankle. Hamblin stayed with her until it she was able to continue under her own power. After making it to the finish, D'Agostino was helped off of the track in a wheelchair. Hamblin was right there with her.
According to NBC Washington, the runners were knocked out of the final, but were advanced after appealing to the judges. The duo will be allowed on the track for Friday's final, though D'Agostino's injury may prevent that.
Both athletes are longshots for a medal (D'Agostino only made that heat after two runners dropped out), but it's become about much more than that.
"I am so grateful to Abbey for doing that for me," Hamblin said. "That girl is the Olympic spirit right there. I am so impressed and inspired."