One on One with Olympian Abbey D'Agostino '14

by James Handal | 9/9/16 1:47am

Abbey D’Agostino ’14 is the most decorated Ivy League athlete in history. At Dartmouth, D’Agostino was a seven-time National Champion, a 16-time Ivy League Champion, a 12-time All-American and a 15-time Regional/National Award winner. D’Agostino is sponsored by New Balance and participated in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, where she was awarded the 2016 Rio Fair Play Award for her headline-making actions in the 5,000-meter race with Nikki Hamblin.

After your fifth place trials finish, what were you thinking when you heard that a 5,000-meter Olympic spot would open up for you? Did you feel any extra motivation in the Olympic preparation?

AD: I was completely content with crossing the line in fifth place. It was kind of crazy as I was in a similar position in 2012 placing fifth and just missing it. At the same time, I was at a different phase and I crossed the finished line completely exhausted. I do not know if it contributed to my motivation, but I was filled with gratitude for the way that it happened. The theme of the whole spring was just patience, and I was satisfied with my set of circumstances. I learned a lot when everything came together at the right time and it was like a gift which informed my training.

Medals at the Olympics are a sign of success on the track, but what do you feel after the world recognized the amazing display of sportsmanship with New Zealand’s Nikki Hamblin?

AD: I had a sense that my experience there was destined given how the trials wound up and how I qualified. I had the sense that my selection to be on the Olympic team was because God chose me to be on the team for a specific reason. As the whole season unfolded, injuries kept popping up, and I knew I was at the Olympics for a reason. The Olympics were very powerful and the moment it happened, I was a part of something that was a lot more than any accolades of the games. This occasion was a different form of accolade, and it came at a time of negativity in the culture. It provided hope to people and I’m thankful to be a part of that. I was just chosen to be an instrument of it all.

You and Nikki had a great display of courage helping each other finish the last four and a half laps to complete the 5K? What was your natural thought and mental capacity to help a fellow runner and finish the 5K?

AD: I feel really confident that it was not intentional and everything happened very quickly. The way I responded was the way that had been prepared. It was not a choice I made in the moment as God prepared me to respond that way as the spirit acted like that in the moment. It was miraculous that I was able to finish the race. I knew how my legs felt, but I had no idea how hurt I was until I started to jog and my leg started to buckle. It was the first telltale sign of an ACL injury.

The amount of hours you have spent at Dartmouth and training for the Olympics, what was it like to just step back and realize that helping a fellow athlete reach both your goals while letting go of your personal success?

AD: It was a blessing. I’ve had a lot of extremely well intentioned people respond to this and I really appreciate that. I do not feel an ounce of regret or bitterness that it happened. It is better to give than it is to receive. I was just able to experience that and it was part of altruism.

Congrats on being awarded the 2016 Rio Fair Play Award. How has your Dartmouth experience as a student-athlete contributed to your actions at these Olympics?

AD: Dartmouth was invaluable for many reasons, but it was a powerful place for me. College was a period of identity formation and I needed to be at a place like Dartmouth to learn. I learned how I responded in certain situations. I needed to go to Dartmouth to relearn how to operate in a real changing world. It had to be a place like Dartmouth. The people and the situations were so helpful and my memories were a sense of wellness that has carried out to where I am now with relationships.

Have you and Nikki Hamblin connected and shared a moment just after the Olympic games have finished? What was your reaction?

AD: We exchanged contact information, but I have been recently recuperating. Nikki and I spent some time doing media and disclosing the story during the Olympics. The moment was really special, and it will be a long lasting connection between the two of us. I was able to watch her run the 5K final which was very special to me.

What are your goals after the Olympics and after your surgery?

AD: Right now, I’m living in the present, and it will be a long road until the recovery. It will be a very slow process, and I can’t even know the things that I will learn and how it will benefit me in the future. I hope to be back to elite running by the competition in the spring and to also compete at the USA Nationals next June assuming I recover as I should. I have total faith and confidence that it is realistic.

How has Dartmouth shaped your track career and who at Dartmouth has had the biggest influence on you?

AD: My track and field experience was formational in the sense that I learned to be a leader, and I had a lot of opportunities to self-check and learn what you really care about. There are so many opportunities personally at Dartmouth, and my team is more important than an individual. This opportunity to be a student athlete is important and a gift. My co-captain Arianna Vailas ’14 was huge, and we had parallel journeys as well as personal challenges while learning how to be a leader. Alexi Pappas ’12 was a close friend and mentor who I was able to grow with.

How has deciding to come to Dartmouth and run changed your life? Would you change anything so far?

AD: Dartmouth was so timely, and it was a time where I was developing security. I also developed all of the variables such as academics, the pressures, the different phases through running, the injuries that came with it and also realizing my potential. There were lots of different phases because of the Dartmouth community. Dartmouth was very life changing.

How has your faith and positive attitude shaped your mental toughness in running?

AD: Faith and a positive attitude are everything. Faith is the foundation and it is very hard to imagine without it. Faith has taught me what I can and can’t do. Having faith has really helped me summon joy and not just bliss. Faith is a by-product of having a purpose. Everything comes from the foundation of faith, God and a positive attitude.

What are your plans after your running career is finished?

AD: I am a psych major, and I just needed to adjust to this lifestyle before I commit to academics again. I am open to the idea of further education, but I am very content with not knowing. I think this job is giving me a powerful platform to contribute to this sport that isn’t clear now, but will be clear by the time I’m done running.

This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.