Olympic spirit celebrated in Rio

Published 19 August 2016 (AEDT)

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 10: Cameron McEvoy (L) congratulates gold medal winner Kyle Chalmers of Australia in the Men's 100m Freestyle Final on Day 5 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium on August 10, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. © 2016 Getty Images

RIO 2016: Gold, silver and bronze medals are not the only form of glory celebrated at the pinnacle of world sport, the Olympic Games.

Some efforts will not result in a podium finish, or even a personal best. But shows of great sportsmanship and integrity are equally lauded as moments that make the Games special and represent the essence of Olympic spirit.

These moments of Olympism are where great people won gold in the hearts of the world.

NIKKI HAMBLIN/ABBEY D’AGOSTINO: Gasps were heard around Olympic Stadium when American Abbey D’Agostino and Nikki Hamblin of New Zealand became entangled and fell to the track during their heat of the women’s 5000 metre race. But what happened next was even more surprising. After tumbling together, D’Agostino was the first to get up. When she saw that Hamblin was still on the track, shocked and injured, she paused to help her up. As they tried to continue it was Hamblin who helped D’Agostino, the more seriously injured of the pair, before D’Agostino told Hamblin to go on ahead. Following a protest, both runners were advanced to Friday’s final (August 19).

ETENESH DIRO: In another gutsy effort at the athletics track, Ethiopian athlete Etenesh Diro not only finished the 3000m steeplechase event with only one shoe on, but she qualified for the final. With only a few laps to go Diro became tangled up with some other competitors and her right shoe came half-off. She stopped momentarily to put her shoe back on, but after being overtaken by several competitors she decided to ditch the footwear entirely. After completing the final three laps (including barriers and water jump) Diro fell to the ground at the finish line clutching her foot.

THIAGO BRAZ DA SILVA: The hometown pole vault hero earned the adoration of his country when he smashed the Olympic record to jump 6.03m, becoming the first Brazilian man to win an athletics gold since 1984. However, the crowd was so fervent in its support that it booed Da Silva’s competitor, defending Olympic champion Renaud Lavillenie (France). The taunting continued right through to the medal ceremony, moving Lavillenie to tears on the podium and forcing Da Silva to raise his arms and shoulders in question at the audience. Later, Da Silva comforted Lavillenie in the athlete’s lounge trying to erase the crowd’s “shocking” behaviour.

KEVIN DURANT: South Australian swimmer Kyle Chalmers has a secret weapon in his arsenal. Before each race he watches NBA superstar Kevin Durant’s most valuable player speech from 2014. The speech and achievements of his idol have propelled Chalmers to many great achievements in the pool, but in Rio he received an extra push. Australian team officials managed to get word to Durant about Chalmers’ tradition, and Durant generously recorded a personal message for the 18-year-old before his 100m freestyle final, where he went on to win gold. Durant’s message: “You’ve got skills, man. Always USA, but I hope you do well.”

CAM MCEVOY: Chalmer’s freestyle gold medal – when the 18-year-old became the youngest ever to win the event - incited many displays of good sportsmanship, but none better than from his teammate Cameron McEvoy. World Champion McEvoy came into the 100m final as favourite, having finished second in his semi-final and in form. But something didn’t come together for the Aussie in the medal race, and he was left in the wake of Chalmers. But despite his personal disappointment, McEvoy was focused on praising his friend for a magnificent effort. “But enough about me, Kyle’s come in and done another PB…. That’s bloody wonderful, isn’t it?”

LEE EUN JU/HONG UN JONG: Their nations are at war but when Lee Eun Ju (South Korea) and Hong Un Jong (North Korea) stepped into the artistic gymnastics arena at Olympic Park last week, they were competitors and peers like any other. In fact, the pair were seen chatting and laughing as they warmed up for the qualification round, and they even stole an opportunity to take a selfie together, immortalising a moment of peace and friendship.

FU YUANHUI: Chinese swimmer Fu Yuanhui won millions of fans this week when she displayed genuine surprise at her own success. On two occasions – first during the semi-final of the 100m backstroke and again in the final – Yuanhui was completely oblivious of her achievements. In a post-race interview following the final she blamed her short arms for not winning a medal, at which point the journalist interjected and told her she had won bronze. She went on to say “What? Third? I did not know. I think that’s not bad at all.” The previous day, upon learning that she swam her semi-final in 58.95 seconds she said “I thought it was 59 seconds. I was so fast!”

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