This amazing Olympic moment proves that the Olympics aren’t all about medals and competition. As this Canadian skiing coach demonstrated, the games are also about sportsmanship, friendship, and helping others. This single moment is what the Olympics are really about.
Russian cross-country skier Anton Gafarov was competing in the sprint race Tuesday when he crashed hard.
His left ski was badly damaged and he couldn’t take his weight off of the broken ski, so he attempted to finish the race using mainly his poles.
A few minutes later he would crash again, this time breaking his ski in two pieces.
At this point he was 3 minutes behind the leaders, with no hope of winning the race. But Gafarov had trained his entire life to compete in the Olympics and he refused to give up. As spectators and other coaches stood by and watched the Russian struggle to stay on his skis, Canadian coach Justin Wadsworth ran onto the course with a replacement ski and attached it to Gafarov’s boot. No words were spoken between the two rivals, as the coach kneeled beside the athlete and attached the spare ski. Gafarov nodded and continued on to finish the race.
“It was like watching an animal stuck in a trap. You can’t just sit there and do nothing about it,” Wadsworth said after the race.
“I wanted him to have dignity as he crossed the finish line,” Wadsworth, a three-time Olympian, said.
For Wadsworth, who was born in California, this was just a case of paying it forward.
During the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino the director of cross-country skiing in Norway, Bjornar Hakensmoen, assisted Canadian cross-country skier Sara Renner when her pole broke during the third lap of a six lap relay. Hakensmoen threw Renner his pole and the Canadians came in a close second behind Sweden (Norway came in fourth).
Renner’s partner during the competition was Beckie Scott, who just happens to be Wadsworth’s wife.
Said the Norwegian coach after helping Sara Renner back in 2006, “This competition, and all competitions, it should be a fight. It should not be decided by skis.” Coach Wadsworth obviously felt the same way.
The Russian skier managed to cross the finish line nearly two minutes after the leaders and in last place, but he received a rousing standing ovation from the supportive crowd.
It was such a simple gesture by the Canadian coach. In fact, when a reporter from the Toronto Star approached him for an interview 2 hours after the race, Wadsworth wasn’t even sure why he wanted to talk to him. “Oh. That” he said after the reporter explained the reason for the interview.
In the end, this is exactly what the Olympics are about. It is about the fight for medals, about competition, and pride in your country, but mostly it’s about friends and countries coming together and celebrating our similarities and sportsmanship. This was a true Olympic moment.
Check out another touching moment from the Sochi Olympics, as Canadian Alex Bilodeau wins a gold medal after being inspired by his disabled brother.