Runners Abbey D'Agostino of the US and NZ's Nikki Hamblin epitomized the Olympic spirit Tuesday.

Story highlights

Nikki Hamblin accidentally tripped Abbey D'Agostino

D'Agostino helped opponent back to her feet

Hamblin returned compliment for injured D'Agostino

CNN  — 

It could have been a moment of controversy or anger. Instead it turned into a perfect demonstration of one of Olympism’s founding principles – that it’s “a philosophy of life, exalting and combining in a balanced whole the qualities of body, will and mind.”

As New Zealand runner Nikki Hamblin competed in the 5,000 meters Tuesday at Rio 2016, she stumbled and fell, accidentally tripping Abbey D’Agostino of the US.

D’Agostino helped Hamblin back to her feet – but the American had injured her leg in the incident.

When it gave way and she slumped to the track seconds later, Hamblin then helped her up and stayed by her side to make sure she was OK.

Hamblin only resumed the round one, heat two race at the Olympic Stadium when she knew D’Agostino was over the worst.

And she waited at the finishing line to greet the American – who hobbled through the pain to complete the race and was helped away in a wheelchair – with a heartfelt hug.

D'Agostino and Hamblin hug after their 5,000m race.

‘Olympic spirit right there’

Fans in Rio cheered and applauded the outstanding display of sportsmanship from both competitors.

Hamblin lavished praise on D’Agostino, telling reporters: “That girl is the Olympic spirit right there.”

She added: “I went down, and I was like: ‘What’s happening? Why am I on the ground?’

“Then suddenly there was this hand on my shoulder and she said: ‘Get up, get up, we have to finish this.’ I was like: ‘Yup, you’re right. This is the Olympics. We have to finish this.’”

D'Agostino and Hamblin talk after the race.

Hamblin described D’Agostino as “an amazing woman” and revealed that the pair had never met before the collision.

“Regardless of the race and the result on the board, that’s a moment you’re never ever going to forget for the rest of your life – that girl shaking my shoulder, like: ‘Come on, get up,’” she said.

READ MORE: Dramatic photo finish sparks controversy

Both runners have been added to the field for Friday’s final – any lingering injury problems permitting – after their team officials submitted successful protests.