You know that "Olympic spirit" thing we always hear network analysts drone on about?
Well, apparently it's a very real thing, and we got to see it at its very best during a cross-country ski sprint in Sochi on Tuesday.
Russian skier Anton Gafarov was considered an early medal favorite coming into the race, but struggled considerably after breaking a ski. As described by the Toronto Star:
He’d crashed on a quick downhill corner and broken a ski. Then he’d crashed again. A long, thin layer of P-Tex had been skinned off his ski. It was now wrapped around his foot like a snare. Gafarov was not ‘skiing’ to the finish. He was dragging himself.
But just as it appeared Gafarov -- who was then minutes behind the pack in a race typically decided by fractions of a second -- would be forced to throw in the towel, Team Canada cross-country skiing coach Justin Wadsworth decided to take action.
“I wanted him to have dignity as he crossed the finish line," said Wadsworth after the fact.
This was a fitting way for the Canadian Olympic team to pay it forward, in a manner of speaking. During a cross-country relay race at the 2006 games in Torino, Canadian Olympian Sara Renner snapped a pole and was struggling to finish her leg of the race. Similar to Gafarov, Renner was helped by a coach from a rival country, Norwegian cross-country skiing director Bjornar Hakensmoen, who handed her a new pole. The Canadian team would go on to earn a silver in the race. Norway finished fourth. And another indisputable piece of evidence was added to the argument that the Olympic spirit is a very real phenomenon.
In the case of Wadsworth, the importance of competing at the Games is certainly not lost on the coach, who represented the United States at three Winter Olympics.
Here is a photo of Wadsworth from 2000, celebrating a gold medal in the men's cross-country relay at the 2000 Winter Goodwill Games in Lake Placid:
Wadsworth deserves the highest of accolades for doing his part to help a competitor from a different country get to experience the same joy.