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I didn’t watch much of the Olympics. I tuned in for the big events – gymnastics, swimming, a little volleyball. I’m just not into sports. But I’m a sucker for a good human interest story. Here are some of my favorites, when the Olympic spirit really shined.
Competitors Helping Each Other
American Abbey D’agostino and New Zealand’s Nikki Hamblin were running in the Women’s 5,000 meter race (that’s 3.1 miles for those of us who don’t speak metric) when they got tangled up in each other and fell. I can’t even imagine training for something like the Olympics and then falling. I’m honestly not sure how I would react.
But these two women embodied the Olympic spirit in their reactions. Abbey, who had actually caused Nikki to fall by stepping on the back of her foot, helped Nikki up. But Abbey had hurt her knee pretty badly when she fell over Nikki, and a little later in the race Abbey fell to the ground. Now it was Nikki’s turn to make sure that Abbey got up.
They both managed to finish, and Nikki helped Abbey into a wheelchair. But their journey didn’t end there. The Olympic Committee decided to award the runners the Pierre de Coubertin award, otherwise knows as the International Fair Play Trophy. It’s only been given out 17 times in the history of the modern Olympics.The International Fair Play Trophy has only been given out 17 times. Here's why these runner got it. Click To Tweet
Selfies are a dime a dozen, but they usually don’t bring countries together that have been at war for decades. Lee Eun Ju, a gymnast from South Korea, and Hong Un Jong, a North Korean gymnast, took a selfie together. And while that might not seem like a big deal, the South Korean gymnast is technically required to submit a report within seven days after having a spontaneous interaction with a North Korean. I can only imagine it’s worse for the North Korean.
Still, it’s nice to see that athletics can bridge decades of war.
Runner Protests His Government
If I’d been watching as Ethiopian runner Feyisa Lilesa cross the finish line in second place in the Men’s Marathon, I’m quite sure I wouldn’t have noticed anything amiss. But fellow Ethiopians knew that the gesture he made with his arms—crossing them over his head—was a protest against the Ethiopian government and some very bad things that it’s been doing to the Oromo people, Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group.
Lilesa’s brave protest has drawn attention to the killing of 400 protesters and injuring of many more, but it also means that he probably can’t go back to the country he was competing for.The silver medalist in the Men's Marathon at the Olympics can't go home. Click To Tweet
Meb Keflezighi Finishes In Style
Meb Keflizighi has had a pretty great long-distance running career. He’s won both the NYC Marathon and the Boston Marathon, and he earned a silver medal at the 2004 Olympics. He knew that Rio would be his last Olympics. And he seemed to be doing well for the first half of the Olympic marathon (yup, the same race from the story above).
I think I probably would have curled into a ball at that point and asked someone to roll me over the finish line. But Meb did a few push ups, got up, and crossed the finish line with pride and gratitude.
The Entire Refugee Team
Honestly, I don’t remember hearing anything about the team made up of refugees from different war-torn countries. I don’t think any of them did all that well in the competitions (not surprising, considering some of the horrific conditions some of them trained in). But I was humbled and awed reading the stories of how they got to the Olympics.