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In the instant before an accident occurs, our lives supposedly flash before our eyes.
If this is true, I wonder what Abbey D’Agostino of Team USA was thinking the moment she found herself on the ground next to New Zealand’s Nikki Hamblin in the women’s 5,000-meter race with five laps left to go.
Perhaps it was the years of pre-dawn workouts and sacrificed social life.
The expense of coaches and training.
The grueling 48 months before she could compete again in Tokyo.
Or perhaps it was the pain of a torn ACL, torn meniscus, and a strained ankle to boot.
With all that D’Agostino had lost, few would have blamed her for being angry or emotional. Her Olympic hopes were dashed and, worse, her injuries would surely complicate future training.
Still, D’Agostino knew what to do if she ever fell in a race. Her coach Mark Coogan had told her countless times that her only job in that moment was to get up and keep running.
For athletes at this level – it’s drilled to the point of instinct.
“She did pretty much the opposite of what I told her,” said Coogan. “But I am so glad she did.”
What did D’Agostino do?
In a display of true character, she got up from the fall – and pulled Nikki Hamblin up with her.
According to Hamblin, she said, “Get up, get up! We have to finish this.”
I can understand the desire to help a teammate, but a stranger – a competitor even? At the Olympic games? That’s truly remarkable.
D’Agostino and Hamblin finished last and second to last respectively, each almost half a minute behind in a race that’s won or lost in milliseconds.
But in a photo for the ages, the moment D’Agostino limped across the finish line – Hamblin was there waiting for her.
Isn’t this an incredible image? It’s a reminder to us all that that being a decent human is far more important than winning.
And that’s grace.