Commonwealth Games marathon winner Michael Shelley has been targeted by a torrent of online abuse for failing to stop and help stricken Scottish runner Callum Hawkins.
Hawkins, 25, was in the lead by as much as two minutes before collapsing with exhaustion less than 2km from the finish line on the Gold Coast earlier this month.
Spectators took photos and looked on in horror as Australian competitor Shelley cruised past a fallen Hawkins and took out the gold.
Images captured Hawkins in clear pain lying on the ground as Shelley ran past him to take the lead.
The 34-year-old Aussie revealed he had been left heartbroken at receiving a torrent of hate for his “heartless” failure to stop and help.
“It was just what happened,” Shelley told the Sunday Mail.
“I saw the volunteer beside him and I didn’t see any lead-up. I just saw that he was getting help.”
Shelley added: “I was struggling myself when I got to the finish line.”
Reacting to the comments on news programme Weekend Today in Australian, Channel Nine newsreader Jayne Azzopardi said: “If he had stopped to help the guy over the finish line, he would be remembered a lot longer as a gold medal winner. It’s that sense of mateship.”
Journalist Peter FitzSimons agreed, saying, “I glory in stories of those who stop”.
Hawkins had twice been asked during the race if he required assistance, but both times he rejected the offer because any help would result in him being disqualified.
Shelley, a Gold Coast local, is reportedly so shattered by the backlash he is receiving, he feels the gold medal win has being tarnished.
The marathon runner was seen being comforted by wellwishers, including Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove, at a thank you party held for Games volunteers yesterday.
Shelley told the media he has reached out to Hawkins, who was released from Gold Coast University Hospital on Monday.
“I just told him I hope he’s better soon and wished him all the best,” he said.
Games chairman Peter Beattie said Shelley deserved his gold medal.
Hawkins, who spoke yesterday about the race for the first time at a publicity event in the build-up to today’s London Marathon, only arrived home in Scotland on Friday.
“I’m starting to feel more like myself, but I’m still a bit tired,” he said.
“It’s been a fairly quiet week as Team Scotland has helped to buffer a lot of the media attention and I flew back later than everyone else.
“I left Oz on Thursday and now I just have to get my head down and get over it really.”
Hawkins admitted to having seen video of the race and his physical breakdown “a few times”.
“It’s been difficult to avoid seeing it to be honest,” he said.
Hawkins’ memories of the marathon are vague after about the 22-mile mark.
The runner from Elderslie in Renfrewshire was enjoying a big lead at that point, but started to zig-zag across the road before falling with just under two miles left to runt. He got up and managed to stumble for another 100m before falling a second time and hitting his head on a metal railing.
“When I went to watch the actual footage, I remembered exactly when my legs went,” Hawkins said.
On the heat, he added: “Even talking to some Australians, they said it was a brutal day just standing there watching.”