Ethiopian runner Etenesh Diro was representing her country in the women’s 300-meter steeplechase race in the Rio Olympics on Saturday when her right shoe came half-off.
Tangling up with some other competitors in the middle of the pack, Diro – who placed fifth in 2012’s London Olympics – struggled for a few seconds to put her shoe back on completely. But as runners passed her by, she gave up – ripping it off completely and tossing it to the side.
A few steps later, the 25-year-old athlete pulled her right sock off, too.
In true Olympic spirit, Diro then did the unthinkable: she ran the rest of the race – nearly three laps – with one foot bare.
Encouraged, no doubt, by the cheers of the crowd in the Rio stadium, Diro jumped over barriers and sprinted half a mile around the track. She managed to surpass up to some of her competitors – and even negotiated the water jump with ease.
In the end, she finished in 7th place with a time of 9:34.70 – too slow to qualify for Monday’s final.
Exhausted and clutching her foot, she collapsed onto the track, in tears.
Her fumble also prevented Ireland’s Sara Treacy and Jamaica’s Aisha Praught from advancing, as both women were taken down when Diro stopped to fix her shoe.
But just when all ladies thought it was over, something miraculous happened.
In a true show of sportsmanship, the Irish and Jamaican teams joined the Ethiopian team in protest – and were all given the go-ahead by the Olympic Jury of Appeal to advance to the final.
Diro will surely be the one to watch on Monday – where one would expect her to tie her laces extra tight.