IAAF championships

The 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships was held last week in Doha, Qatar, and saw an array of amazing displays of athleticism. There were first-time gold medalists, championship records, and world records, but perhaps the most impactful and memorable moment of the entire competition came on the very first day during the 5000 meter run.

The first heat of the men’s 5000 meters got off to a fast start, with Julien Wanders of Switzerland leading after the first thousand meters with a split of 2:48.83. The next lap saw Oscar Chelimo of Uganda move to the forefront of the pack, splitting 5:36.22 at the 2000 meter mark.

The pre-race favorites began to get move ahead within the group, with the likes of Ethiopians Selemon Barega and Muktar Edris, along with Kenyan Jacob Krop, the latter setting the pace for the next two laps with splits of 8:17.59 and 10:56.52.

A powerful kick in the last 100 meters of the race allowed Selemon Barega to overtake Jacob Krop, qualifying for the final in first place with a time of 13:24.69. Krop, along with Barenga’s fellow countryman Muktar Edris, also qualified, as did Pan American champion Mohammad Ahmed of Canada. (Edris would go on to win the finals of the 5000 meters, with Barenga placing second and Ahmed in third.)

Although the main pack of runners had completed the race, a few athletes who had been left behind by the grueling pace continued to race. Among these were Jonathan Busby of Aruba and Braima Suncar Dabó of Guinea-Bissau. Both were the only athlete representing his country at the Championships.

With most of the remaining runners finishing sporadically in the minute that followed, Busby and Dabó became the only ones remaining on the track.

Busby was on his last lap, but was clearly exhausted. 300 meters from the finish line, fatigue forced him to slow his pace down to a near-stop. The crowd seemed apprehensive, and for an anxious moment, it appeared as if Busby was not going to be able to finish the race. However, fervent cheering broke out as Braima Suncar Dabó came to his opponent’s aid.

Grasping Busby’s arm, Dabó led him through 150 meters before taking Busby’s arm and draping it around his neck, further supporting him to finish the last 150 meters of the race. As the crowd rose to their feet in approval and applause, the two athletes crossed the finish line side-by-side. Although it had been nearly five minutes since the main pack of athletes had finished, the spectators showed the same ovation it had given to the victor, if not greater.

Though neither spoke the other’s language, Busby made his thanks obvious, and Dabó continued to monitor Busby’s condition until the designated medical personnel took over. When later interviewed by Reuters about his determination to help his fellow competitor, Dabó stated that, “My thoughts were to help him finish, that is the point of the race.”

Although he had run the distance faster in the past, the International Association of Athletics Federations recorded Dabó’s final time in the men’s 5000 meter run as a personal best, perhaps in a show of solidarity.

In an increasingly more competitive sporting environment that often approaches the degree of cutthroat, it is frankly refreshing and inspiring to witness such a display of sportsmanship — to see an athlete helping their competitor on such a grand stage for no other reason than deciding that it was the right thing to do. It is this kind of action that encourages other athletes to follow suit, taking more care in and paying more detailed attention to the way in which they treat their opponents.

Braima Suncar Dabó may not have won any accolades in the form of medals, but his demonstration of compassion and championship spirit has undoubtedly won him the respect and reverence of the global sporting community.