Despite placing 81st and 82nd in the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Marathon, German twins Lisa and Anna Hahner made headlines as they ended the race on Sunday, August 14.
The runners held hands as they crossed the finish line — a gesture some believed to be inspiring and heartwarming while others were not thrilled.
“German track and field officials accused [the twins] of publicity seeking and treating the Olympic marathon ‘like a fun run,'” the New York Times reports.
This perception of the Hahner twins’ action stems from their finish times. Anna’s best marathon time is is 2:26:44, and Lisa’s is 2:28:39, which would have placed them both at least in the top 10 if they had ran that fast on Sunday.
They both, however, finished in just over 2 hours and 45 minutes — nearly 20 minutes slower than was expected. Still, smiling and running together, the sisters held hands as they crossed the finish line.
Despite criticism about the moment, the Hahner twins insist they did not plan to run together (let alone hold hands), or purposefully adjust their running methods in order to achieve a photogenic ending together. Their pacing in the race just aligned at the right time.
“It was a magical moment that we could finish this marathon together,” Anna said in an email to the NYT. “We did not think about what we were doing.”
The Hahner twins also shared a photo of their marathon finish from their verified Instagram account the day after the race. “We can say we gave all we had yesterday,” the caption reads. “Sometimes it is not that much as you hope it would be. Thanks to all the supporters. That race was so though [sic] and both of us were really happy to cross finally the finish line.”
The Olympics are a celebration of human achievement and a shared passion for athletics, but there is also a strong sense of national pride derived from winning a medal in an event. In the case of the Hahner twins, some Germans clearly wish they had performed better and made the news for their talent instead of their twinhood and hand-holding.
“Their main aim was to generate media attention,” the sports director of the German Athletics Federation Thomas Kurschilgen told the NYT about the hand-holding.
“That is what we criticise.”
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