The Sochi Network

Touching moment as coach shows true meaning of Olympic spirit

The Sochi Network

Anton Gafarov is helped out by Justin Wadsworth

For the very best competitors in Sochi, the Winter Olympics are all about one thing: winning medals.

And given that it's the few stars who are best of the best that hog the headlines, it's no wonder the rest of us get sucked in to believing that sport is about achievement rather than endeavour.

We get occasional reminders, as we did from Britain's own Chemmy Alcott, whose face was a picture of pure delight as she defied injury to compete in a fourth Olympic games on Wednesday morning. She may only have scraped into the top 20 in the downhill skiing, but from the grin on her features you'd have thought she'd won a drawer-full of gold medals.

But an even more touching moment demonstrating the true Olympic spirit came at the men's Cross Country skiing on Tuesday, courtesy of Canadian team coach Justin Wadsworth.

Wadsworth, an American who himself competed at the Games, is in Sochi trying to help Canadian athletes win medals - but when he saw a Russian competitor in trouble, he rushed to his aid.

27-year-old Anton Gafarov was enduring a brutal competition on home snow, falling twice in the cross-country sprint semi-finals, and breaking one of his skis in the second of those accidents.

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Anton Gafarov sinks to his knees after the crash that cost him his Olympic dream

That left him a long, painful trudge back to the finish line on his ski boots - but Wadsworth happened to be nearby, and he ran out to give the stricken Russian one of the spare skis that he'd had in case of a similar mishap for one of the Canadian athletes.

It was a small thing, perhaps, and the time that Gafarov had already lost meant he had no chance of qualifying; but the act of kindness allowed the skier the dignity of at least finishing the race on home snow.

Wadsworth has been hailed on social media for his humanity and good sport - and rightly so. His act is a reminder to us all that the modern Olympic movement was born not from any ferociously competitive win-at-all-costs mentality, but out of of the Corinthian spirit of taking part, and enjoying sport for its own sake.

In that kindness, Wadsworth sparked memories of British 400m runner Derek Redmond, whose father famously helped him over the line at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona after the medal hope's hamstring gave in during the semi-final.

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Wadsworth's inspiration for his act of kindness may well have come from his wife, incidentally. Wadsworth is married to former Canadian cross-country skier Beckie Scott, whose 2006 Olympic dreams appeared to have been shattered in the relay when her partner Sara Renner lost one of her ski poles before the start.

The Norwegian coach that year, Bjornar Haakensmoen, stepped in to lend Renner a pole - and the Canadian duo ended up winning silver... while the Norwegian pair that Haakensmoen was coaching finished up fourth.

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Anton Gafarov acknowledges the crowd

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