Some of the most indelible Olympic memories have nothing to do with medals, podiums or world records. One of those moments happened Tuesday when Russian Anton Gafarov took a spill during a tricky turn in his cross-country sprint semifinal.
After laying on the snow for a few seconds, Gafarov picked himself back up and continued the race with a badly-damaged ski. Though he was two minutes behind in a race that takes four minutes to complete, he was set on finishing. The ski didn’t cooperate.
Gafarov tumbled down a hill near the finish and his ski snapped in half.
It looked like he’d be unable to finish the race until a man came bounding down the side of the hill holding onto a single ski. Without saying a word, the man bent down, took off Gafarov’s busted ski and replaced it with the one he’d brought down the hill.
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Gafarov finished the race and was met with a rousing ovation from the Russian crowd.
Later, the good skiing Samaritan was revealed to be Canadian cross-country coach Justin Wadsworth. He was standing with a group of coaches when he saw Gafarov’s spill and decided to help him out with a reserve ski he had been holding for his own racer.
As the Toronto Star described, Gafarov nodded at Wadsworth after he fitted the ski and then continued on his way. He was greeted by a thunderous cheer that made it seem like he’d won the race rather than finishing more than two minutes behind. And, in a way, he was. Thanks to Wadsworth’s good deed, a racer who officially finished 12th will be the only thing many people remember about cross country skiing at the 2014 Olympics.
Wadsworth himself didn’t think much of it. Cathal Kelly of The Toronto Star asked the coach about his gesture after the race. She said Wadsworth was “surprised anyone would care.”
“It was like watching an animal stuck in a trap,” he told Kelly. “You can’t just sit there and do nothing about it.”
(Thanks to Business Insider for sharing this story.)