These Runners Came In Last & Made It To The Finals
In a bizarre turn of events on Tuesday, two runners in the 5,000-meter preliminary race made it to the final round, despite coming in dead last. Abbey d'Agostino and Nikki Hamblin placed last and second-to-last after one of them tripped while moving in a pack of runners, causing the other to trip over her more than halfway through the race. D'Agostino, who is on Team USA, suffered an injury, but knew that she had to finish the race. She helped Hamblin, who is from New Zealand, up, and the two made their way through the rest of the race together — and it was a move that ended with them both being allowed to continue to the finals.
You'd assume the two who came in last wouldn't get to advance, right? However, Anna Legnani of the International Association of Athletics Federations tells Bustle that, as per the official rules, the track referee decided to advance them and one other athlete after reviewing video of the incident. "In cases of jostling where one or more athletes are clearly disadvantaged, the referee can decide to advance them to the next round," she says. "In today's 5000m, no athlete was deemed to have obstructed or impeded other athletes, but the three athletes above are considered by the referee to have been affected by jostling, so they were advanced to the final."
"I am so grateful to Abbey for helping me," Hamblin said, according to ESPN. "That girl was the Olympic spirit right there. I am so impressed and inspired by that."
But it wasn't just d'Agostino who helped Hamblin out. Although d'Agostino did encourage Hamblin to get up and finish the race, it was soon clear that d'Agostino was in a lot of pain due to a knee injury that occurred during the fall. Then, it was Hamblin's turn to help her competitor out. They eventually parted ways to finish the race, with Hamblin coming in at 16:43:61, and d'Agostino at 17:10:02. They embraced in a hug in recognition of their support of each other before d'Agostino was taken away in a wheelchair.
No athletes were denied a space in the finals because of d'Agostino and Hamblin's advancement, according to Legnani. "They will compete in the following round in addition to the qualified athletes," she says.
Even if they were advanced for the unintentional mistake rather than their Olympic spirit, it was a beautiful sight, to see the athletes supporting each other succeed.