The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

A day after her ‘Olympic spirit’ went viral, reality hits with runner’s knee injury

Abbey D’Agostino of the United States is helped by Nikki Hamblin of New Zealand after a collision during a 5,000-meter heat. (Ian Walton/Getty Images)

For Abbey D’Agostino, who helped symbolize Olympic sportsmanship when she fell during a 5,000-meter heat, the Olympics are over.

D’Agostino will not compete in Friday’s final in Rio de Janeiro after an examination revealed that she had suffered a complete tear of her right anterior cruciate ligament, a strained medial collateral ligament and a meniscus tear.

D’Agostino and Nikki Hamblin of New Zealand became inextricably linked in Olympic lore by the chain of events that began when they collided and seemed to sacrifice any chance to win an Olympic medal, The Post’s Rick Maese wrote, to help each other to the finish line, “picking each other up, urging each other to continue, pushing each other to the finish.” D’Agostino was clearly in pain after her right knee gave out and, after she and Hamblin finished the race, both were advanced to the final by track officials.

They were strangers at the starting line. Less than 20 minutes later, they were eternally linked.

“There was about 2k to go, I was still feeling controlled, and was mentally preparing to focus and maintain contact with the lead group for the final grind,” D’Agostino, who is from Topsfield, Mass., said Wednesday morning in a statement. “Then in a split second, there was a woman on the ground in front of me, I tripped on her, someone behind me tripped on me, and I was on the ground.

“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.”

The two runners were unacquainted — until Tuesday’s fall. “That girl is the Olympic spirit right there,” Hamblin said later.

That was a message that D’Agostino was focused on Wednesday, too.

“By far the best part of my experience of the Olympics has been the community it creates, what the Games symbolizes,” she said in the statement. “Since the night of the Opening Ceremonies, I have been so touched by this — people from all corners of globe, embracing their unique cultures, yet all uniting under one celebration of the human body, mind, and spirit. I just keep thinking about how that spirit of unity and peace is stronger than all the global strife we’re bombarded with and saddened by on a daily basis.”

It was unforgettable for viewers and for Hamblin.

“I’m never going to forget that moment,” she said. “When someone asks me what happened in Rio in 20 years’ time, that’s my story.”