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SOCHI, Russia — Justin Wadsworth’s going to think twice about running to an athlete in need after Tuesday’s shenanigans.
The Canadian cross-country head coach and former U.S. Ski Team member simply reacted when he ran a ski down to Russia’s Anton Gafarov, who crashed and burned so hard he broke his ski in the men’s freestyle sprint semifinals on Tuesday.
Without any of his skiers in the semifinals, Wadsworth, 45, was essentially hanging out on course when Gafarov went down. It seemed like an eternity before anyone reacted and Gafarov fell once more trying to make his way to the finish on one ski. Wadsworth came to the rescue, running down a hill and through some snow to get to the 26-year-old Russian.
“I could have waited the whole day for the ski,” Gafarov told RT. “I saw many athletes who were literally crawling till the finish line without skis and without poles.”
Two days later, Wadsworth, originally from Bend, Ore., still hadn’t heard the end of it. The mainstream media ate up his random act of kindness (ROAK), and the funny thing is, it was’t so random. Coaches do it all the time.
“It’s been interesting, trying to make sure it’s not a distraction or anything else,” Wadsworth said of the “many” phone calls and emails he’s received since, including coverage from CNN and Access Hollywood.
“It seems like people were whatever by it, inspired or liked it, so I’m going along with it,” he said.
At the time, he likened it to helping a wounded animal. Who in their right mind wouldn’t?
But should a similar situation arise again, Wadsworth joked that he might think twice.
“As I had a ski in my hand today, I was like, ‘Oh, maybe I don’t want to ski out here again today,” he said Thursday. “And if I see somebody, I’ll give somebody else the nudge to go. We’re just doing what we …. always do. It’s kind of embarrassing.”
Alex Kochon (email@example.com) is the former managing editor at FasterSkier. She spent seven years with FS from 2011-2018, and has been writing, editing, and skiing ever since. She's making a cameo in 2020.