As he hits the downhill stretch into the stadium, Gafarov falls again. This time the ski looks shredded. “Can he keep going?” asks the commentator. “Will he?” Gafarov gets back up, now balanced on one ski.
And then, a man runs onto the course and, with the efficiency of a NASCAR pit crew, swaps out the broken ski for a new one so Gafarov can ski his way across the finish line – to uproarious applause.
That man was not Gafarov’s coach or teammate. Instead it was rival coach Justin Wadsworth, of Canada’s team, who ran out to help the struggling skier.
Both Wadsworth and Gafarov must have known that changing skis on the course is against the rules of international competition. But in that moment it seemed not to matter. “It’s kind of like seeing an animal in a trap,” Wadsworth said. “I just couldn’t let him sit there.”
That is what the Olympic spirit is all about.
By the way, you may remember that something like this has happened before. Here’s the women’s team sprint at the 2006 Turin Games, where Norwegian head coach Bjørnar Håkensmoen lent a ski pole to Canada’s Sarah Renner after hers broke.
The gesture essentially ensured Renner and the Canadian team would medal while Norway would not.
And how’s this for the Olympic spirit? Sarah Renner’s teammate in that race was a woman named Beckie Scott … Justin Wadsworth’s wife.