Runner who helped hurts knee and won't return at Olympics

AP News
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Posted: Aug 17, 2016 8:00 PM
Runner who helped hurts knee and won't return at Olympics

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Abbey D'Agostino never imagined doing the right thing would cause such a stir.

The 5,000-meter runner whose act of friendship captured the Olympic spirit will not return to the track in Rio after tearing ligaments in her knee.

In an interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday, she said that even though her season was over, her message prevailed.

She was involved in a chain-reaction tumble Tuesday on the track at Olympic Stadium with New Zealand's Nikki Hamblin. Instead of scrambling up to keep running, D'Agostino went to Hamblin, helped her up and urged the New Zealander to keep running.

The gesture of kindness has been a big hit on social media and provided a refreshing reminder of what the Olympics are supposed to be about. D'Agostino spent Wednesday doing TV interviews — rare for a little-known, 5,000-meter runner — and telling her story.

Her explanation was simple.

"Simple acts of kindness are recognized and people are drawn to them," she explained. "It resonates with people. It's cool to have something like that shine."

Before the race, D'Agostino had never crossed paths with Hamblin. Now, they've exchanged contact information and vow to stay in touch.

"It's connected us in a way that's powerful," the 24-year-old from Topsfield, Massachusetts, said. "It's the beginning of a relationship that neither one of us will ever forget.

"We live on opposite sides of world and our paths won't cross frequently. But we will keep in touch and share our story."

Hamblin couldn't agree more.

"That girl is the Olympic spirit right there," said Hamblin, who also encouraged D'Agostino to keep running. "I've never met her before. Like, I never met this girl before. And isn't that just so amazing. Such an amazing woman."

D'Agostino has seen replays of the incident, trying to figure out how she got the worst of the collision. She's still not sure how it happened.

Even more, she's not sure how she was able to make it across the finish line with a banged-up right knee.

"A miracle," she said. "All I know is I prayed my way through the last 4 1/2 laps. My knee was like jelly — as soon as I tried to pick it up, it would start buckling. I've never done anything like that."

After she finished the race, she was carted off the track in a wheelchair. Later, doctors discovered a torn ACL and strained MCL in her knee.

Race officials advanced both runners into Friday's final, but D'Agostino can't go. She will meet with a doctor in Boston after the Olympics before deciding when to have surgery.

No regrets, she said.

"I'm so thankful to be a part of this," D'Agostino said. "It' about the privilege of representing us and being more than just my race performance.

"What's impressed on me is the symbolism of the Olympics. Of course, I wasn't expecting this. At the same time, (the collision) was clear and a big reason why I was there. We were a part of a message that was being delivered to a lot of people through that race."

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AP National Writer Eddie Pells contributed.