The Spirit of Humanity

Published: September 14, 2016

By Jim Lichtman
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You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.  – Mahatma Gandhi


Olympic athletes train for years for events that, in some cases, are over in a matter of minutes. New Zealand’s Nikki Jane Hamblin is a middle distance runner who specializes in the 800 and 1,500 meters. America’s Abbey D’Agostino is, according to Runner’s World, “the most decorated Ivy League athlete in track and field and cross country running.”

However, it was in the qualifying heat for the women’s 5000 meter race that Hamblin and D’Agostino received unexpected media attention.

On the eighth lap, D’Agostino clipped the back of Hamblin’s foot and both women fell to the ground. “D’Agostino got up,” The New York Times (Aug.16) writes, “but Hamblin was just lying there. She appeared to be crying.

“Get up,” D’Agostino said. “We have to finish this.”

“I was like, Yup, yup, you’re right. This is the Olympics Games. We have to finish this,” Hamblin said.

“ ‘That girl is the Olympic spirit right there,’ Hamblin said of D’Agostino. ‘I’ve never met her before. … And isn’t that just so amazing. Such an amazing woman.’

“As it turned out, D’Agostino probably needed more help: She soon realized she’d hurt her ankle in the fall. Grimacing, she refused to give up, though, running nearly half the race with the injury. Hamblin did what she could, hanging back with D’Agostino for a little while to return the favor and offer encouragement.

“ ‘She helped me first. I tried to help her. She was pretty bad,’ Hamblin said. She eventually had to leave D’Agostino behind and was certain that the American would have to stop.

“ ‘I didn’t even realize she was still running. When I turned around at the finish line and she’s still running, I was like, wow,’ Hamblin said.

“She waited for her new friend to cross the line — D’Agostino had been lapped — and they hugged.

“This time, it was D’Agostino who was in tears.”

They came in last, but finished the race together.

Olympic officials were so impressed with the demonstration of true sportsmanship that both Hamblin and D’Agostino were allowed to compete in the final. D’Agostino had suffered a torn ligament and was unable to participate. While Hamblin’s injuries were less serious, the New Zealander finished last in the final. Both runners, however, were awarded the Rio 2016 Fair Play Award by the International Fair Play Committee.

While American swimmer Ryan Lochte received far more media attention for his manufactured story of an armed robbery, it’s important to remember that simple human compassion is alive and well.

I hope the people at General Mills were watching and honor Hamblin and D’Agonstino’s true Olympic Spirit with their photo on a box of Wheaties!


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