Hamblin of New Zealand and D'Agostino of the US fell to the ground after tripping in the early stages of Tuesday's second women's 5,000m heat here, Xinhua news agency reported.

D'Agostino was first to recover, urging Hambling to get back on her feet and finish the race. Both regained their footing before D'Agostino again went to ground. This time Hamblin played the role of motivator.

"Someone had to go help her. And if I could even give her one percent back of what she gave me when she helped me get off the track, that would be amazing," Hamblin said.

"She was like, go on, go on, I don't know if I can run, keep going, keep going! I can't put weight on my knee. It was buckling," she said.

Despite both athletes showing obvious signs of discomfort, they managed to finish the race, albeit well behind their fellow competitors.

In moving scenes at the Olympic Stadium, the crowd rose to its feet and offered rousing applause as Hamblin crossed the line in 16 minutes 43.61 seconds and D'Agostino finished it in 26.41 behind her.

"She ran four and a half laps barely being able to run," Hamblin said.

Both athletes embraced each other after the heat before D'Agostino departed the arena in a wheelchair. It isn't the first time Hamblin has stumbled during a major event. The 28-year-old also suffered a nasty fall while competing in the 1,500m at the 2011 World Championships in Daegu.

Hamblin said it didn't matter that she failed to advance beyond the heats, adding that she and D'Agostino would share a lifelong bond as a result of their experience in Rio.

"You come into an Olympic Games and everyone wants to win, everyone wants to medal. But, really, as disappointing as this experience is, there is so much more to this than a medal."

"When someone asks me what happened in Rio in 20 years time, that's my story," Hamblin added.

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