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Americans, Russians applauded for Olympic diplomacy

By: Associated Press
February 12, 2014 Updated: February 12, 2014 at 3:38 pm
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photo - Russia's Anton Gafarov falls with a broken ski during his men's semifinal of the cross-country sprint at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)
Russia's Anton Gafarov falls with a broken ski during his men's semifinal of the cross-country sprint at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader) 

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — It was diplomacy, playing out on the snow: An American 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.

A La Jolla, Cal., native 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 60 pairs of skis before a race, after the Germans' own gear got damaged during transport to Sochi.

The German team was full of appreciation for the Russians’ gesture, with the President of the German Olympic Sports Union (DOSB), Alfons Hörmann, claiming it was the first time during his time in office that he had ever witnessed such a display of solidarity. 

— By Eric Willemsen — Twitter http://twitter.com/eWilmedia

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Associated Press reporters are filing dispatches about happenings in and around Sochi during the 2014 Winter Games. Follow AP journalists covering the Olympics on Twitter: http://apne.ws/1c3WMiu

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