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Russia's Anton Gafarov is helped by Canadian coach Justin Wadsworth after crashing in the Men's Cross-Country Skiing Individual Sprint Free Semifinals at the Laura Cross-Country Ski and Biathlon Center during the Sochi Winter Olympics on February 11, 2014 in Rosa Khutor near Sochi. Wadsworth was applauded for showing the true spirit of the Olympics when he helped Gafarov to finish after breaking a ski in a crash.
It was diplomacy, playing out on the snow: An American from La Jolla, Calif., who helped a Russian finish his Olympic race has drawn praise from the IOC.
Justin Wadsworth, a three-time U.S. Olympian who is now head coach of the Canadian cross-country team, witnessed Anton Gafarov falling and breaking his left ski during the first semifinal heat of the men's sprint at the Sochi Games on Tuesday.
Wadsworth didn't think long and ran onto the track to hand Gafarov a new ski, enabling the Russian to continue his run into the Laura cross-country stadium. Gafarov was then cheered by his home crowd despite finishing 2 minutes, 49.62 seconds off the lead.
Wadsworth is a native of San Diego’s seaside community, La Jolla, who grew up in the Seattle area and now lives in Bend, Oregon. Wadsworth said he wanted Gafarov to have a chance to complete the race with dignity. By then, no Canadian was left in the competition; the country's best finisher, Alex Harvey, was beaten in the quarterfinals.
"It is entirely to be applauded," IOC spokesman Mark Adams said Wednesday. "That's one of the things why we all love the Olympics, because, as well as being an amazing elite sport, there is something special as well, there are values underlying it as well."
A similar Olympic spirit between nations has surfaced before at cross-country skiing these Games. Last week, the Russian team granted Germany access for one night to its grinding machine, used to prepare skis before a race, after the Germans' own gear got damaged during transport to Sochi.