A seemingly touching moment at the Rio Games has turned surprisingly controversial.
German twin sisters (and training partners) Lisa and Anna Hahner held hands as they crossed the finish line in 81st and 82nd place in the women’s marathon on Sunday. Almost immediately after the race, the criticism came pouring in with commentators accusing the women of treating the Olympic event like a “fun run.”
“The Hahner twins Lisa and Anna ended their Olympic marathon race more than 21 minutes behind the winner, more than 15 minutes on their best performance, 81 and 82 (positions),” Thomas Kurschilgen, sports director of the German Athletics Federation, told reporters, according to The Telegraph.
“It looked as though they completed a fun run and not [an] Olympic [race].”
He expanded his criticism in an email to the New York Times. “Every athlete in the Olympic competitions should be motivated to demonstrate his or her best performance and aim for the best possible result. Their main aim was to generate media attention. That is what we criticize.”
Lars Wallrodt, a columnist for daily national newspaper Die Welt, also voiced his outrage.
“The Olympics is the meeting of the best athletes, measuring the peak performance of each country’s best. If the Hahners jointly want to cross the finish line, beaming and holding hands, then they can – in the countryside home run in St. Pölten or the Miss-Braided run in Solingen,” he wrote, according to news.com.au.”At the Olympics all athletes should go to achieve maximum performance, not the most sympathetic photo opportunity.”
On Monday, the twins took to Facebook to defend their actions, explaining that they were not happy to be placing 81st and 82nd, so they tried to make the most of their situation by finishing the race together.
“81 and 82. Definitely not what we had hoped for,” the post reads. “Are we satisfied? No. Crossing the finish line? Still one of our biggest sporting moments. For four years, we trained to our limit and went beyond that, too.”
Anna further defended her actions in an email to the New York Times in which she explained that she and her sister had not planned to finish the race hand in hand and had made every effort to do their individual best.
“I invested all I had and 300 meters before the finish line, I was next to Lisa. It was a magical moment that we could finish this marathon together,” she wrote. “We did not think about what we were doing.”
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The Hahners weren’t the only twins to finish Sunday’s marathon together. North Korea’s Kim Hye-song and Kim Hye-gyong finished 10th and 11th – although they kept their hands to themselves as they crossed the finish line.
One thing is for sure, sisterhood is alive and well at the Games!