Olympics: New Zealand and American runners help each other in 5000m heat after fall

Nikki Hamblin of New Zealand stops running during the race to help fellow competitor US' Abbey D'Agostino after the latter suffered a cramp.
Nikki Hamblin of New Zealand stops running during the race to help fellow competitor US' Abbey D'Agostino after the latter suffered a cramp.PHOTO: REUTERS
Nikki Hamblin of New Zealand stops running during the race to help fellow competitor US' Abbey D'Agostino after the latter suffered a cramp.
Nikki Hamblin of New Zealand stops running during the race to help fellow competitor US' Abbey D'Agostino after the latter suffered a cramp.PHOTO: REUTERS
New Zealand's Nikki Hamblin (left) hugs US' Abbey D'agostino after they competed in the Women's 5000m Round 1 during the athletics event at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games on August 16.
New Zealand's Nikki Hamblin (left) hugs US' Abbey D'agostino after they competed in the Women's 5000m Round 1 during the athletics event at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games on August 16.PHOTO: AFP

RIO DE JANEIRO - They were both strangers who were familiar with the Olympic values.

So when New Zealand's Nikki Hamblin and American Abbey D'Agostino met at the Olympic Stadium track during the women's 5,000m heat on Tuesday, they showed the world what they knew.

After they tripped over one another 4½ laps into the race, D'Agostino helped her rival up.

Instead of making up for lost seconds, she got down to urge Hamblin to continue, with the 28-year-old seemingly in pain after falling on her shoulder.

D'Agostino herself appeared to be carrying a knee injury from the accident yet refused to quit.

The 24-year-old continued to run but soon collapsed on the ground. In a role reversal, Hamblin helped D'Agostino to her feet.

D'Agostino, however, told Hamblin to go on without her, and the New Zealander finished 29th overall in 16min 43.61sec.

D'Agostino then limped across the finish line - a place and 26.41sec behind Hamblin.

They shared a hug before D'Agostino was taken off in a wheelchair.

"That girl is the Olympic spirit right there," Hamblin said. "I've never met her before. Like I never met this girl before. And isn't that just so amazing. Such an amazing woman.

"Suddenly, there was this hand on my shoulder, like 'Get up. We have to finish this' and I was like 'Yup, yup, you're right. This is the Olympics Games. We have to finish this.'

"She helped me first. I tried to help her. She was pretty (badly injured)."

The crowd gave the pair an ovation for their perseverance and sportsmanship.

"You come into an Olympic Games and everyone wants to win, everyone wants to medal," Hamblin said. "But, really, as disappointing as this experience is, there is so much more to this than a medal.

"When someone asks me what happened in Rio in 20 years time, that's my story."

The story is set to have another chapter.

Both athletes were given places in Friday's final after their team officials successfully submitted protests.

The final typically has a field of 15 athletes. There will be 18 on Friday after Austria's Jennifer Wenth was also advanced as she was impeded in the collision.

Ethiopia's Almaz Ayana was the top qualifier, finishing in 15:04.35.