What the Olympics is Really About

What would you do if you accidentally collided into a fellow competitor in the most important race of your life? Get up as quickly as possible and try to make up for lost time? Or stop and help your fellow competitor up?

Well, two track Olympians, New Zealander Nikki Hamblin and American Abbey D’Agostino, chose the latter during their 5,000 meters qualifying heat at the ongoing 2016 Rio Olympics, a couple of days ago. As a result, their act has been lauded by media outlets all over the world as an embodiment of the Olympic Spirit.

Here’s a quick replay: During the race, Hamblin had her legs clipped by D’Agostino, and both women stumbled and fell. D’Agostino got up quickly and helped Hamblin to her feet, encouraging her to finish the race. Later on, Hamblin was seen encouraging D’Agostino who suffered an ankle injury as a result. Both ended up last.

Photos of the pair helping each other up and hugging at the end of the finish line have been splashed everywhere by major news outlets. Hamblin spoke highly of D’Agostino’s kindness, telling reporters: “I went down, and I was like, ‘What’s happening? Why am I on the ground?’. Then suddenly, there’s this hand on my shoulder [and D’Agostino saying], ‘Get up, get up, we have to finish this.’ And I’m like, ‘Yup, yup, you’re right. This is the Olympic games. We have to finish this.”

As a New Zealander, I could not have been more proud of the 28-year-old track athlete, who epitomized the Kiwi spirit of willingness to lend a hand to those in need. But what was even more heartening to read was D’Agostino’s explanation about her response—which she attributes to God. In a statement posted by the USA Track and Field website, she said, “Although my actions were instinctual at that moment, the only way I can and have rationalized it is that God prepared my heart to respond that way. This whole time here he’s made clear to me that my experience in Rio was going to be about more than my race performance – and as soon as Nikki got up I knew that was it.”

And there’s a happy ending—Olympics organizers have given both Hamblin and D’Agostino places to run in the finals on Saturday after their teams submitted protests.

Reading about how Hamblin and D’Agostino helped each other in their moments of distress reminded me of the verse, “two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labour. If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls, and has no one to help them up,” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10).

How often do we stop to “help each other up”? We’re not just talking about physically helping a friend who has tripped and skinned her knees, but friends who may be going through tough patches in life. Will we stop to listen, comfort, encourage, or give them a hand?

A friend of mine has been looking desperately for a part-time job, but has been unable to find any suitable employment because she has to plan her work around her toddler. Not many employers are able to offer such flexi-hours. But I cannot remember the last time I had rung her to see how she was doing. My friend has “fallen down”, and I have done nothing to pick her up.

If I were D’Agostino, would I have helped Hamblin up? Maybe. Or I might have been tempted to continue running because I wouldn’t want to miss my chance of Olympic victory.

We live in a rat-race economy in which the person who snoozes, loses. But the Bible reminds us that we are to take time to look out for our friends’ well-being.

By stopping to help each other, Hamblin and D’Agostino may have gone home without any hope of any medals. But the actions the two displayed on that day were worth their weight in gold.

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