Abbey D’Agostino on Faith, Anxiety and the Worst Olympic Fall of Her Life

Abbey D’Agostino on running toward God instead of chasing after perfection. Fast feet and strong faith left anxiety eating this runner’s dust.

For two weeks every two years, the Olympics brings out a laundry list of inspirational stories, jaw-dropping triumphs, and heartwarming snapshots. Abbey D’Agostino personifies all of that.

On Tuesday, during round one of the Women’s 5000 meter race, American Abbey D’Agostino and New Zealand’s Nikki Hamblin got tripped up and tumbled to the ground. They quickly helped each other up and decided there was only one thing they could do now—finish what they started.

Together both women through bloody limbs and injured knees crossed the finish line and embraced each other in a hug—here are your heartwarming snapshots.

Our hearts were full as we watched the true meaning of sportsmanship play out before our eyes. Both runners qualified for the 5000 meter final on Friday because they were tripped.

Of course, the sportsmanship alone could make this a great Olympic story, but it’s what Abbey D’Agostino conquered before her fall on Tuesday that makes this inspirational story even sweeter.

She’s one of the best in the world, and the most decorated individual in track and field. A middle- and long-distance runner, the 24-year old was the first Ivy League athlete to win seven individual NCAA championships at Dartmouth, before becoming an Olympian.

Throughout high school and college, Abbey was “intrinsically motivated, both academically and athletically.” She was a top performer, but her desire for perfection left her feeling overwhelmed and burnt out in college.

“I very much felt like an underdog, and like I had to compensate for what I thought I was lacking. So I internalized the high performance environment, and was earning my position in the classroom and my position on the team,” says Abbey. “And that became my mission.”

On the outside, she had it all together. But on the inside, her world was falling apart.

Anxiety and panic attacks had become Abbey’s daily reality. “This is overbearing. This is too much. I’ve done this. I’ve set these expectations for myself,” she remembers convincing herself. She was desperate for peace.

“I knew that I had a natural love for [running], but I felt a disconnect between my external and internal world. I think that’s what really led me to question, to seek God through that.” Her overwhelming and uncontrollable emotions drove her toward God.

In 2013, the night before the USA Championships, an anxious Abbey says, “I remember praying and saying, ‘Whatever happens in this race, it’s in Your hands, Lord.’”

That was when she knew her relationship with God was getting real. “At this point, I was learning what prayer looked like, what a relationship with God was. It was very much like barebones, like, Okay, I give up.”

Perfection had lost its grip on her, and she was able to finally find the peace she was looking for.

“I remember waking up the morning of the race and feeling such peace. And I didn’t qualify, and I was fine, and I was relieved and joyful,” says Abbey.

Since that race three years ago, Abbey no longer strives for an expectation of perfection, but instead, for peace in racing for the glory of God.

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You could say that her triumphant finish in dead last on Tuesday was just that. It was the furthest thing from perfect, but everything about it—from the way she carried herself to the way she cared for her competitors—was perfectly glorifying to God.

Whether it’s on the track like Abbey and Nikki, or through relatable stories like Abbey’s struggle with anxiety, panic attacks and perfection, the world stage houses it all. The Olympics is meant to bring people together, and time after time, it does just that. 

Bri Lamm
Bri is an outgoing introvert with a heart that beats for adventure. She lives to serve the Lord, experience the world, and eat macaroni and cheese in between capturing life’s greatest moments on one of her favorite cameras.

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