Olympics: New Zealand and US runners awarded rare sportsmanship medal for helping each other

New Zealand's Nikki Hamblin helping Abbey D'Agostino of the US to her feet during their 5,000m heat.
New Zealand's Nikki Hamblin helping Abbey D'Agostino of the US to her feet during their 5,000m heat. PHOTO: REUTERS

The two Olympic runners widely praised for helping each other up during their women's 5,000m race have been given a rare sportsmanship award.

New Zealand's Nikki Hamblin and Abbey D'Agostino of the US on Saturday (Aug 21) received the Pierre de Coubertin medal from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for their act of "selflessness and exemplary sportsmanship".

The award, named after the French historian who co-founded the modern Olympic Games, had only been given out 17 times previously.

Hamblin, 28, and D'Agostino, 24, had been racing in their 5,000m heat on Aug 16 when they tripped over each other and fell to the ground.

D'Agostino, who managed to recover, helped Hamblin to her feet first before the pair continued with their race.

But she later succumbed to an ankle injury and this time, it was Hamblin - who had hung back to offer her fellow competitor encouragement - who got her back up to finish the race together.


Hamblin offering encouragement to D'Agostino as the latter struggles with her injury. PHOTO: REUTERS

Images of Hamblin helping a distressed D'Agostino to her feet on the track have become one of the most enduring and inspiring memories of the Rio Games.

Said Hamblin at the award ceremony: "I think it's very special for both Abbey and myself. I don't think either of us woke up and thought that that was going to be our day, or our race, or our Olympic Games. Both of us are strong competitors and we wanted to go out there and do our best on the track.

 

"I was on the ground for too long to get back up and catch on to the pack. So then it becomes about finishing the race, and finishing the race well. I am so grateful to Abbey for picking me up, and I think many people would have returned the favour...once you are on the track, there is a mutual understanding of what it takes to get there."

Both women failed to qualify for the 5,000m final, although they were later granted places after protests from their teams.

D'Agostino, however, was ruled out of the final last Friday due to her injury. Hamblin - also hampered by her injuries - finished last out of 17 competitors.