Longtime Oregon ski coach captures Olympic spirit in Sochi

Longtime Oregon ski coach captures Olympic spirit in Sochi

Credit: AFP/Getty Images

TO GO WITH AFP STORY - 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. AFP PHOTO / KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV (Photo credit should read KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images)

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by CHRIS CHASE, For The Win/USA TODAY Sports

kgw.com

Posted on February 12, 2014 at 10:38 AM

Updated Wednesday, Feb 12 at 4:54 PM

Some of the most indelible Olympic memories have nothing to do with medals, podiums or world records. One of those moments happened Tuesday when Russian Anton Gafarov took a spill during a tricky turn in his cross-country sprint semifinal.

After laying on the snow for a few seconds, Gafarov picked himself back up and continued the race with a badly-damaged ski. Though he was two minutes behind in a race that takes four minutes to complete, he was set on finishing. The ski didn’t cooperate.

Gafarov tumbled down a hill near the finish and his ski snapped in half.

It looked like he’d be unable to finish the race until a man came bounding down the side of the hill holding onto a single ski. Without saying a word, the man bent down, took off Gafarov’s busted ski and replaced it with the one he’d brought down the hill.

More Olympics coverage at the KGW Olympic Zone

Gafarov finished the race and was met with a rousing ovation from the Russian crowd.

Later, the good skiing Samaritan was revealed to be Canadian cross-country coach Justin Wadsworth, a longtime Bend, Ore. resident and member of the U.S. Cross-Country team in the 1994, 1998 and 2002 Winter Olympics.

Click for more on Justin Wadsworth

Wadsworth was standing with a group of coaches when he saw Gafarov’s spill and decided to help him out with a reserve ski he had been holding for his own racer.

As the Toronto Star described, Gafarov nodded at Wadsworth after he fitted the ski and then continued on his way. He was greeted by a thunderous cheer that made it seem like he’d won the race rather than finishing more than two minutes behind. And, in a way, he had. Thanks to Wadsworth’s good deed, a racer who officially finished 12th will be the only thing many people remember about cross country skiing at the 2014 Olympics.

Wadsworth himself didn’t think much of it. Cathal Kelly of The Toronto Star asked the coach about his gesture after the race. She said Wadsworth was “surprised anyone would care.”

“It was like watching an animal stuck in a trap,” he told Kelly. “You can’t just sit there and do nothing about it.”

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