Abbey D’Agostino & Nikki Hamblin Show the True Meaning of the Olympics as Almaz Ayana Leads Women’s 5,000 Qualifiers

August 16, 2016

RIO DE JANEIRO — It takes something special to make headlines in a qualifying heat of the women’s 5,000 meters. But on day five of track & field at the 2016 Summer Olympics, Abbey D’Agostino of the United States and Nikki Hamblin of New Zealand created a moment that neither one of them will ever forget.

As the main pack of runners were approaching 3200 meters, chaos ensued as the pack began to lap Chad’s Bibiro Ali Taher (17:32 pb). As the pack tried to move around Taher, some sped up, some slowed down, some moved to the inside, and some moved to the outside. During all of this, things got tight in the pack and Hamblin lost her balance after her left foot moving forward hit the left foot of Japan’s Misaki Onishi on its backswing. Hamblin went down right in front of the seven-time NCAA champ D’Agostino who was taken out as well.

D’Agostino got up and then stopped and helped pick Hamblin up by the shoulders. Once both runners were up, however, it was D’Agostino that was having the most problems as she had an injury to her right ankle or knee as Hamblin had pinned D’Agostino’s leg down when she fell. When D’Agostino tried to resume running she was limping noticeably and within meters she went sprawling to the track yet again. Hamblin, who  was now in tears, stopped this time and tried to assist D’Agostino back up. D’Agostino told Hamblin to go on without her and Hamblin went on to finish the race well back of the leaders in 15th place in 16:43.61. D’Agostino, after urging Hamblin on, eventually got up and finished herself in 16th in 17:10.02. She embraced Hamblin at the end of the race before she was carted off in a wheelchair. Both women were later advanced to the final along with Austria’s Jennifer Wenth, who was also involved in the collision.

Update on 8/17/2016: USATF is reporting Abbey D’Agostino has a complete tear of her right ACL and a meniscus tear as well. She has a strained MCL. Obviously, she will not be able to run the final.

You can see screenshots from the BBC broadcast of what happened here. Click for a larger image.

Here is video of the incident.

Article continues below player.

Hamblin was full of praise for D’Agostino after the race.

“When I went down, I was like, ‘What’s happening, why am I on the ground?’” Hamblin said. “And suddenly there’s this hand on my shoulder like, ‘Get up, get up, we have to finish this.’ And I’m like ‘Okay, yep, yep, you’re right, it’s the Olympic Games, we have to finish this.’ I’m so grateful for Abbey for doing that for me. I mean, that girl is the Olympic spirit right there.

“I finished and I had a lonely last four laps but she ran four and a half laps barely being able to run. I’m so impressed and inspired that she did that. I’ve never met her before. Like, I’ve never met this girl before. And isn’t that just so amazing? That’s an amazing moment. Regardless of the race and the result on the board, that’s a moment that you’re never, ever going to forget. The rest of your life, it’s going to be that girl shaking my shoulder like ‘Come on, get up.’ And I really hope she’s okay. And I know that she’s young and she’s going to have so many more opportunities. And being such a good human being, she’s going to go so far.”

D’Agostino went to the Olympic Village after the race for an MRI to check for ligament damage. It is still uncertain whether she will compete in Friday night’s final. D’Agostino’s coach Mark Coogan reported that D’Agostino was in good spirits and felt good during the race as well.

No matter how Hamblin and D’Agostino finish in Friday’s final, no one will forget the tremendous sportsmanship displayed by the two women this morning. This was the true spirit of the Olympic Games.

The Heats

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In terms of the actual performances in the heats, all of the expected medal contenders advanced with ease. The story of heat #1 was Japan’s Miyuki Uehara, who has a modest 15:21 pb and went for it. She went out hard (2:59 1st 1k) and built a huge lead as she led by six seconds at 600. She’d eventually get caught with just under four laps remaining but did a good job of responding and she ended up being rewarded with a time qualifying spot (15:23) to the final.

Two Americans were in heat #1. Kim Conley didn’t run well (15:36) and failed to advance but Shelby Houlihan used a huge last lap (64 flat) to move from 8th to 4th to advance to the Olympic final.

In heat #2, 10,000 world record holder Almaz Ayana got bored after running 1900 meters with the pack and blitzed a 32.5 200 to instantly gap the field. She’d go on to win by more than 13 seconds in 15:04.35. Hand her the gold medal now.

Results and analysis appear below.

1 954 Hellen Onsando OBIRI KENKEN 15:19.38 Q
2 1257 Yasemin CAN TURTUR 15:19.50 Q
3 945 Mercy CHERONO KENKEN 15:19.56 Q
4 1348 Shelby HOULIHAN USAUSA 15:19.76 Q
5 1036 Susan KUIJKEN NEDNED 15:19.96 Q SB
6 325 Madeline HEINER HILLS AUSAUS 15:21.33 q
7 924 Miyuki UEHARA JPNJPN 15:23.41 q SB
8 653 Ababel YESHANEH ETHETH 15:24.38 q
9 1269 Juliet CHEKWEL UGAUGA 15:29.07
10 729 Laura WHITTLE GBRGBR 15:31.30
11 374 Louise CARTON BELBEL 15:34.39
12 1332 Kim CONLEY USAUSA 15:36.00
13 488 Jessica O’CONNELL CANCAN 15:51.18
14 1077 Lucy OLIVER NZLNZL 15:53.77
15 1189 Sharon FIRISUA SOLSOL 18:01.62 NR
16 543 Beatrice Kamuchanga ALICE CODCOD 19:29.47


1 641 Almaz AYANA ETHETH 15:04.35 Q
2 649 Senbere TEFERI ETHETH 15:17.43 Q
3 946 Vivian Jepkemoi CHERUIYOT KENKEN 15:17.74 Q
4 1068 Karoline Bjerkeli GRØVDAL NORNOR 15:17.83 Q
5 709 Eilish MCCOLGAN GBRGBR 15:18.20 Q
6 344 Eloise WELLINGS AUSAUS 15:19.02 q SB
7 329 Genevieve LACAZE AUSAUS 15:20.45 q PB
8 725 Stephanie TWELL GBRGBR 15:25.90
9 918 Misaki ONISHI JPNJPN 15:29.17
10 445 Mimi BELETE BRNBRN 15:29.72
11 490 Andrea SECCAFIEN CANCAN 15:30.32
12 920 Ayuko SUZUKI JPNJPN 15:41.81
13 1271 Stella CHESANG UGAUGA 15:49.80
14 351 Jennifer WENTH AUTAUT 16:07.02 q
15 1075 Nikki HAMBLIN NZLNZL 16:43.61 q
16 1335 Abbey D’AGOSTINO USAUSA 17:10.02 q

Quick Take #1: Great sportsmanship by both ladies but the whole fall was avoidable

The whole situation was avoidable. If the IOC or IAAF to let someone into the Olympics with a 17:43 5000 pb, they need to be given strict orders. When you are being lapped, please move out to lane #4.

Quick Take #2: Shelby Houlihan Ready for the Olympic Final in Her 5th Race as a Pro

Despite getting dropped near the end of the race by the leaders and having to kick to get back up and make the top 5, Shelby Houlihan felt she had things under control in her prelim. Houlihan, whose twitter handle is @shelbo800 (for the 800m) is new to the 5k this year and still trying to gauge her effort in the event, but she is very confident in her kick.

“I tried to run smart for the most part but I think maybe I let them get away from me too much. I really had to work hard that last mile. It did feel a little bit harder than I wanted,” she said.

“I find I’m getting tired, but as soon as  I switch those gears, I have a second wind,” she said, noting that she wasn’t too worried today when she was behind the leaders. “I wasn’t really worried. I knew they were a little bit too far ahead of me than I was comfortable with, but I still felt very relaxed. I was trying to wait as long as possible before I started kicking that last lap. I knew if I was within 10 meters of them I knew I’d be able to kick [past them].”

Shelby thinks her future is bright in the 5k saying “I’ve never been in a race where I felt I was totally taxed and couldn’t go any faster. I’m interested to see what happens when I do get in a race like that. Maybe [I’ll be able to kick], maybe I’ll be totally gassed. I’m excited for the future and trying to get into some really fast 5ks.”

The Olympic 5k final with Almaz Ayana should be very fast.

Houlihan will have a huge cheering section for it as she had friends and family yelling for her today giving “Shelbo” encouragement. Shelby thought 2020 would be her Olympic moment, but it came four years earlier than expected in an event she didn’t think she’d run. However, when she joined Jerry Schumacher’s Bowerman Track Club group, she immediately was able to stick pretty well with the 10k runners in the group (Emily Infeld and Betsy Saina), and the talk of running the 5k soon was a possibility. The Olympic 5000 m final will be only the 5th 5k of her professional career.

Quick Take #3: Kim Conley Was Prepared To Make the Final But Now Ready to Prepare for Her Marathon Debut in NYC

Four years ago Kim Conley experienced her first Olympics and she ran a then-PR of 15:14.48 but did not make the final. This morning she came up short of the final as well and was disappointed with the result, but she’s got her marathon debut in NYC to prepare for now and is looking forward to that.

“Coming off four years ago, I had done the mental and physical preparation that would get me into the final. I wish I had put all this together, but here I am. But I guess I have to turn the page [because I have my marathon debut in New York City in November].”

Conley is rooming with training partner and US 800 champion Kate Grace in the Olympic Village. Conley is enjoying her time with Kate but won’t be staying for the closing ceremonies as they couldn’t get her a flight back after the ceremonies. Kim, who skipped the opening ceremonies this year but got to do both opening and closing ceremonies in 2012, said, “but it’s just as well, as I’ve got to get to work [prepping for New York.]” Kim thinks she’ll get two days off this week and then it’s into marathon training, which she is excited to learn the details about.

Quick Take #4: Genevieve LaCaze’s Year of PRs continues

Less than 24 hours after PR’ing to take ninth in yesterday’s steeple final (9:21.21), LaCaze returned to the track and PR’d again (15:20.45) to make the Olympic 5,000 final. That now makes 20 races for LaCaze in 2016 and 12 PRs — a phenomenal record for an athlete who is now 27 years old.

“Look, I wish there was a secret because I would just not tell anyone and keep it to myself and continue my career PB’ing,” LaCaze said. “But I can’t say it’s a secret, it’s just showing that I’ve had consistent training now for over a year. Your body just gets stronger when you can put down the layers and I feel like I haven’t been able to do that for so long. So just to be able to wake up every morning and do the training I’m supposed to do, it shows that I’m getting fitter and stronger.

“Also my PBs weren’t fantastic, they were from college (LaCaze went to the University of Florida). I’ve left them in places to be broken but it’s getting harder and harder [now].”

LaCaze said that it’s a bonus to be in the 5,000 final after her strong run in the steeple and now she simply wants to finish as highly as possible. She was also full of praise for Emma Coburn.

“I actually really look up to the American steeplers because they’re showing the way,” LaCaze said. “Emma is someone that I’ve been in awe of since London 2012. I’m trying to follow in her footsteps but she just keeps raising the bar.”

Editor’s note: Initially, we incorrectly reported that D’Agostino clipped legs with Hamblin which resulted in the fall. In actuality, Hamblin went down after clipping the leg of the Japanese runner and Hamblin’s fall resutled in D’Agostino going down.

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