SLOAN COLUMN: Sportsmanship and the Summer Olympics
The 2021 Summer Olympics began last week in Tokyo with no spectators to watch them in person. If the world wants to watch the quadrennial competitions during the next week and a half, it will have to do so either on the computer or television.
To be honest, I have watched only replays and highlights since I do not have cable TV. Would I fork over $100 to watch them live like I do with my MLB.TV subscription? No, but I must admit I do enjoy the spirit and uniqueness of the games as much as I do the competition.
What I do not like about the games in recent years – and particularly this year - is the politics. I see athletes trying to use the games as a platform to make a statement and it bothers me, especially when said athletes want to badmouth the country he or she is representing. It’s just plain disrespectful. You can make your statement at a press conference before or after your event, otherwise keep you mouth shut and do what you came to Tokyo to do – compete as an ambassador of your country. Do not be an embarrassment.
My favorite part of the Olympic games, be it winter or summer, is the sportsmanship and goodwill. Every Olympics has at least one remarkable story involving sportsmanship. These are the events that make the games so memorable.
Here are a few extraordinary moments of sportsmanship from Summer Olympic history:
_ In the second heat of the women's 5,000 meters at the 2016 Games in Rio De Janeiro, New Zealander Nikki Hamblin tripped an fell. American Abbey D'Agostino then stumbled and fell over Hamblin, injuring her knee.
Instead of attempting to catch the pack of runners, the American helped the visibly rattled Kiwi to her feet. The two runners were able to finish the heat, although well behind the rest of the field.
_ After fouling on his first two attempts in the long jump at the 1936 Games held in Berlin, American Jesse Owens needed to make an adjustment if he expected to qualify for the final.
German competitor Lutz Long, who had befriended Owens, told the 23-year-old American to tweak his approach. It was advice that would change the course of the competition. Using Lutz's advice, Owens qualified for the final and went on to win gold. Long earned the silver.
_ In the final of the 200 meters at the 2008 Games in Beijing, American sprinter Shawn Crawford finished fourth behind winner Usain Boltof Jamaica, Churandy Martina of the Netherlands Antilles, and American Wallace Spearmon. After looking at replays of the race, it was determined that Spearmon and Martina had stepped on their lane lines during the race. The technicality disqualified both runners. As a result, Crawford went from fourth place to second and was awarded the silver medal. After the Games, Martina received a package from Crawford. When he opened it, it contained the American's silver medal and a note: "I know this won't replace the moment, but I want you to have this, because I believe it's rightfully yours!"
_ During a heat in the 110-meter hurdles in the 2012 Games in London, China’s Liu Xiang injured his right leg and hobbled past the finish line. Britain's Andrew Turner and Spain's Jackson Quinonez came to Xiang's aid, assisting the 2004 Olympic champion and former world-record holder to a wheelchair to be taken from the track.
_ Who can forget Derek Redmond's courageous moment during his 400-meter semifinals at the Barcelona Games in 2008? Near the end of the race, the Brit suffered a torn hamstring and began hobbling in pain. As he struggled to finish the race, his father came to his aid, rushing down from the stands to reach his son. His dad supporting him on the track, Derek completed the race, although he was later disqualified for receiving assistance.
_ British fencer Judy Guinness was in position to win the individual foil gold medal match against Austria's Ellen Preis in the 1932 Games in Los Angeles. Guinness, however, notified the judges that they failed to award two points to Preis for successful touches, and the change in scoring reversed the final result, giving Preis gold and Guinness silver.
You don’t have to win a medal to distinguish yourself on the field of competition. Sometimes it’s heart and humanity rather than skill and brawn that make a true champion.
Contact Editor Bob Sloan at editor