‘Selfless sportsmanship’: Danish hurdler hailed for congratulating Ukrainian rival after own hopes ended by fall in Tokyo downpour
The women’s 400m hurdle semi-finals went ahead at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo on Monday despite a downpour which many fans felt made conditions far too hazardous for competition.
Appearing in the third semi-final, Petersen came a cropper in agonizing circumstances as she hit a hurdle on the last bend while still in contention for a qualifying spot.
As the Dane lay on the rain-sodden Tokyo track, she was forced to watch on as her rivals blazed towards the finish line.
Femke Bol of the Netherlands and Anna Cockrell of the USA came home first and second to book automatic spots in Wednesday's final, while Ukrainian star Tkachuk faced an anxious wait to see if she had qualified as one of the fastest third-placed finishers.
As the 26-year-old sought confirmation of her fate, Petersen came over to reassure her that her time had been quick enough to book a place in the Olympic hurdles finale.
After that was finally confirmed, Petersen embraced a tearful Tkachuk in heart-warming scenes as the Dane put her own disappointment aside.
The actions from Petersen – whose fall meant she missed out on the chance to add to the Olympic silver she won in Rio five years ago – won widespread praise on social media.
“Sara Slott Petersen comforting Viktoria Tkachuk warms my heart,” wrote one person.
Irish journalist Neil O’Riordan said there was “something in my eye” as he discussed the scenes.
Ohh speak of #Olympics moments. Sara Slott Petersen trips on the hurdles, doesn’t finish her race but then walks up to an anxious Viktoriya Tkachuk, puts an arm around her & waits till the Ukrainian finds out she’s qualified for the 400 hurdles final #Tokyo2020#Athletics— Bharat Sundaresan (@beastieboy07) August 2, 2021
Sport is a rollercoaster ride. But this athlete, Sara Slott Petersen, did herself and #DEN proud. 34, Mom with an almost 8 year old son. Today she crashed at the #Olympics semi finals in what could be her last ever run. Thanks for the memories. #Tokyo2020#400mHurdlespic.twitter.com/LGnfgR4qva— Jan Rye Hansen ⚽ (@janrye72) August 2, 2021
“What a lovely touch there Sara Slott Petersen,” said Eurosport commentator Martin Gillingham of the 34-year-old Danish star, who had been her nation’s flag-bearer at the opening ceremony in Tokyo.
“She has crashed out and it's almost inevitably the end of her career but she still finds the time to wait with Tkachuk to see if she has made the final. It's a really nice selfless piece of sportsmanship.”
The torrential conditions in Tokyo caused widespread discussion on Monday, not least during the women’s discus final and pole vault heats, which were both temporarily suspended.
That was not before competitors had struggled to get a footing – with the discus throwing area having to be towel-dried by officials.
Controversy! It’s pouring down rain, everyone’s slipping and they continue to carry on with shot put, discus & javelin throws. Not to mention races too are going on at the side. Absolute insanity! #Athletics#Olympicspic.twitter.com/nlaaZilKxE— 🇮🇳 Hαвíвtí 2.0 🏴 (@YasQueen_17) August 2, 2021
What is wrong with Olympic people! Women are slipping and you have to carry on.— richa singh (@richa_singh) August 2, 2021
Social media users fumed, with some claiming that the conditions were ruining the spectacle and cheating the athletes out of what they had been preparing for.
"It’s just pouring and the poor athletes are still competing in the women’s discuss throw and it’s sad to see many of them slipping out in the middle but the show is still going on. Not sure if this is what these athletes have practiced so hard for 4 years to end up with," wrote one Twitter user.
When the discus resumed, it was America’s Valarie Allman who walked away with gold with a throw of 68.98m, followed by Kristin Pudenz of Germany – who managed 66.86m – and Cuban athlete Yaime Perez on 65.72m.