The Olympics are always a lot of fun to watch, and they can also provide a glimpse into the kind of dedication and sportsmanship that most people rarely get to witness. At the 2014 winter Olympic games in Sochi, Russia, one Canadian coach demonstrated the true spirit of the Olympics.
Justin Wadsworth was a cross-country ski coach for the Canadian team. His team had not done well that day, and he was feeling disappointed as he wandered over to the finish line to watch the other skiers finish their competition.
That’s when he spotted Russian skier, Anton Gafarov, moving slowly over a rise in the track.
Anton had been a favorite to win the competition, but he’d taken a bad fall earlier in the race. Now, his hopes for a medal dashed, he was just doing his best to salvage his pride and finish the race.
One of Anton’s skis had broken in the fall, so he was awkwardly dragging one useless ski along behind him. It was difficult to watch — yet the Russian coaches were just standing there, doing nothing to help their skier.
“It was like watching an animal stuck in a trap. You can’t just sit there and do nothing about it,” Justin said.
After Anton fell again, Justin couldn’t stand it any longer. Without thinking, Justin grabbed an extra ski he had brought along for one of the Canadian skiers and dashed out onto the course.
The two men didn’t utter a word to each other, but a moment of silent understanding passed between them. Working quickly, Justin crouched next to Anton and quickly swapped out the broken ski for a fresh one.
Justin then ran back into the crowd as Anton determinedly finished the last few yards of the race. And the crowd cheered his determination on.
The relief on Anton’s face as he crosses the finish line is clear as day. Although he finished dead last, it wasn’t about winning at that point — it was about finishing.
“I wanted him to have dignity as he crossed the finish line,” said Justin later that day. Justin himself was a three-time Olympian, so he understood how crushing the moment would have been if Anton had not been able to finish the race.
With this simple, selfless gesture, Justin summed up everything that is beautiful about the Olympic games. Watch the incredible moment below, and be sure to share this story to spread the love.