The world media loved it. The LA Times ran a headline “Runners Abbey D'Agostino, Nikki Hamblin are the real winners in Rio.” Indeed, they are the real winners. They really did win gold.
Here is how it happened.
Long distance runner Abbey D’Agostino, of Topsfield, Mass., collided with Nikki Hamblin from New Zealand about 3,200 meters into the race. The spirit of the race would have demanded that the contestants each get up and resume their race to the finish. Any moment wasted forfeits the race. Yet, when D’Agostino noticed Hamblin lying uncomfortably on the ground, she paused and spent a precious moment encouraging a rival she had never met. She put a hand on Hamblin’s shoulder and said, “get up get up, we have to finish this.”
Hamblin heeded the summons and pulled herself up. By now you would think that Hamblin would be off to the races and running, but no. Out of her periphery she noticed D’Agostino ambling painfully. Now it was Hamblin’s turn. She stopped to help her benefactor. D’Agostino encouraged her to run on, but she wouldn’t hear of it. They ambled along the track together and D’Agostino came in last. Hamblin passed the finish line only seconds ahead of her newfound friend.
But they didn’t come in last. They came in first.
This is not what the ancient Olympics were all about. The ancient Greeks established these games to prove physical prowess and perfection. The games were all about gaining a competitive edge and emerging victorious. Surrendering glory for the sake of humanity was a sign of weakness. This was precisely why the Greeks and Macabees clashed. It wasn’t merely a struggle over land. It was a struggle over conflicting weltanschauungs.
Today we have two Olympians who showed the world that the spirit is more important than the flesh. Character is more important than medals. The soul trumps the body any day, any time. The human connection they forged on that track is their gold medal. The runner who crossed the finish line first will be forgotten tomorrow. This triumph, however, will be lauded for years.
If you ask me, the Olympics Committee should present a specially minted metal at the games closing ceremonies to these two athletes that transcended the games.
Abbey D’Agostino and Nikki Hamblin: Theirs was not the quickest time; theirs was for all time.