Olympian who helped competitor who fell: 'God prepared my heart to respond in that way'

Hamblin and D'Agostino embraced after the race.Reuters

Olympian Abbey D'Agostino has credited her faith in God for the way she stopped to help a fellow competitor who fell down during the 5,000m qualifier in Rio on Tuesday.

"God prepared my heart to respond that way," D'Agostino said in a statement.

The US athlete and New Zealander Nikki Hamblin were lauded for embodying true Olympic spirit after Hamblin fell during the race, tripping up D'Agostino.

D'Agostino, who was raised in a Catholic family, got back on her feet almost immediately, but rather than continuing the race, stopped to help Hamblin up.

The two began to run again, but D'Agostino fell again, apparently in severe pain. Hamblin responded by stopping to help her rival, and the two eventually finished in 29th and 30th place respectively.

"There was about 2k to go, I was still feeling controlled, and was mentally preparing to focus and maintain contact with the lead group for the final grind," D'Agostino said in a statement posted by USA Track and Field.

"Then in a split second, there was a woman on the ground in front of me, I tripped on her, someone behind me tripped on me, and I was on the ground. Although my actions were instinctual at that moment, the only way I can and have rationalized it is that God prepared my heart to respond that way. This whole time here he's made clear to me that my experience in Rio was going to be about more than my race performance – and as soon as Nikki got up I knew that was it."

D'Agostino continued: "By far the best part of my experience of the Olympics has been the community it creates, what the Games symbolizes.

"Since the night of the opening ceremonies, I have been so touched by this -- people from all corners of globe, embracing their unique cultures, yet all uniting under one celebration of the human body, mind, and spirit. I just keep thinking about how that spirit of unity and peace is stronger than all the global strife we're bombarded with and saddened by on a daily basis."

Despite not qualifying, both Hamlin and D'Agostino were given places in the 5000m final on Friday after their teams protested.

However, D'Agostino will not compete as she sustained serious knee injuries in the fall.