Good sports
December 6, 2011 11:32 PM   Subscribe

At the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, a yacht race was taking the world's teams through dangerous waters at breakneck speeds. Stig Käll and his brother Lars were in the running to win when, behind them, the Australian team capsized and slipped below the deadly waves. Making a split-second decision, the Källs turned their boat around and rescued the Australians, losing the race and vanishing from the pages of Olympic history, but winning recognition from the Japanese press, who awarded them the headline "Gold Medal of Humanity". The Käll brothers were the first to receive recognition from the International Fair Play Committee, a group that now gives awards and recognition to people who display unusual sportsmanship, such as:

Eugenio Monti, an Italian bobsledder who at the 1964 Winter Olympics lent the British team a bolt from his sled to replace a broken one on theirs. The British team took the gold medal, but Monti went on to win his own gold medal in 1968.

Willye B. White, an American track athlete, nurse, and public citizen who in 1965 requested that her opponent, English champion Mary Rand, be allowed another attempt at the long jump; Rand went on to win

István Gulyás, a Hungarian tennis player who in 1966 demanded a delay of game to allow his opponent to recover from a leg cramp.

Andrzej Bachleda, a Polish skiier who in 1968 spontaneously announced to the judges that he had missed a gate

David Bodingtion, a British speed skater who crashed himself into the ice at the Winter Olympics in 1968 in order to avoid injuring a fallen competitor

Ian Hallam, Willy Moore, Mick Bennett and Rick Evan, a British cycling team who in 1973 surrendered their gold medal after the German team who had been in front of them for most of the race crashed into a track official

Irina Karavayeva, a Russian trampolinist who in 2001 broke federation rules to give away an incorrectly awarded gold medal

Since 2010:

Hamit Altintop, a Turkish-German footballer who at an extremely cold game gave his sweatshirt to a little boy cheering for the opposing team

Rodrigo Pessoa, a Brazilian showjumper who gave instructions to an unprepared competitor on how to run a course

Gao Feng, a Chinese wrestler who carried his injured opponent from the arena in his arms

Amin Motevaselzadeh, an Iranian footballer who purposefully kicked the ball out of play when the opponents' goalkeeper was injured

'Long John' McCurry, an Irish surfer who let his rival borrow his board at a competition

Elvan Abeylegesse, a world-record Turkish runner who let an Ethiopian competitor use her running shoes. The Ethopian went on to win her first silver medal.

Two New Zealand All Blacks coaches, Graham Henry and Tana Umaga. Umaga ran onto the field to assist a competitor who had been knocked unconscious; Henry personally congratulated the members of a rival team after losing a difficult match

The story of the Käll brothers which inspired this post is from the Japan Olympic Committee (Japanese). See also the story of the Medal of Friendship.
posted by shii (41 comments total) 93 users marked this as a favorite

 
Sportsmanship. It's not always about winning.

I found this in the dumpster behind Nike headquarters. Just another rejected slogan.
posted by twoleftfeet at 11:39 PM on December 6, 2011 [16 favorites]


Amin Motevaselzadeh.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 11:43 PM on December 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


There's a certain beauty in trying to be the best, or trying to be the best you can be. It's not really a game. There really isn't a whole lot of money or power involved. But if you are close, if you are really close to being at the top, then you want it to be real.

You spend day after day training. Minute after minute. The only thing that gets you through that is the idea that you really could be your best. Maybe you could be one of the best in the world.

Sportsmanship: People trying to be their best.

That's what matters.
posted by twoleftfeet at 11:50 PM on December 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Kinda surprising how often "unusual sportsmanship" more or less equates to "being a decent person."
posted by ShutterBun at 11:59 PM on December 6, 2011 [11 favorites]


In ten years time, athletes will be fiercely competing for good sportsmanship awards, culminating in a scandal that rocks the Olympic world when several exceptionally helpful athletes will be found to have orchestrated their opponents' mishaps in order to stop and help them out. Ok, maybe not.
posted by sysinfo at 12:02 AM on December 7, 2011 [17 favorites]


Shawn Crawford, Beijing Olympics.
posted by jimmythefish at 12:07 AM on December 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Kinda surprising how often "unusual sportsmanship" more or less equates to "being a decent person."

Indeed - from one of shii's links -
1994 Olympic Winter Games were held in Lillehammer, Norway. Johann Olav Koss came away from the Lillehammer Olympics as a sports superhero, but refreshingly for a star athlete, he was a man with a life outside sports.
Winner of the 1,500 meters, 5,000 meters, and 10,000 meters speed skating events at the 1994 Winter Games, setting a new world record in each event. In 1994, after winning the first gold medal of 1,500-meter speed skating, he donated a major portion of his Olympic bonus (about $ 33,000 [US]) to Olympic Aid for the citizens of Sarajevo and retired shortly after the Lillehammer Games to pursue a career in medicine.
In fact, he is not only an active supporter of the Olympic Aid project to help children in Sarajevo and other warworn countries but also allowed his skates to be auctioned on national television, gaining another $85,000 for Olympic Aid.
A few months before the Olympics, Koss visited Eritrea, the East African nation still recovering from decades of civil war. He promised to return after the Olympics with sports equipment for Eritrea’s children. On the final day of the Lillehammer Games, Koss appealed to the children of Norway to donate extra soccer balls, sports clothes and other equipment to the children of Eritrea. As promised, Johann Koss did return to Eritrea—with twelve tons of equipment.

Excellent post, shii.
posted by arcticseal at 12:12 AM on December 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Stirling Moss also was a sportsman:
Moss believed the manner in which the battle was fought was as important as the outcome. This sporting attitude cost him the 1958 Formula 1 World Championship. When rival Mike Hawthorn was threatened with a penalty in the Boavista Urban Circuit in Porto, Portugal, Moss defended Hawthorn's actions to race stewards contemplating a penalty to Hawthorn. Hawthorn was accused of reversing in the track after spinning and stalling his car on an uphill section of the track. Moss himself shouted the suggestion to Hawthorn that he steer downhill, against traffic, to bump-start the car, which Hawthorn did. Moss's quick thinking and then gracious defence of Hawthorn before the stewards saw Hawthorn's 6 points for his second-place finish (behind Moss) preserved. Hawthorn went on to beat Moss for the title by one point, even though he won only one race that year to Moss's four, making Hawthorn Britain's first World Champion.
posted by maxwelton at 12:12 AM on December 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


Lars' are known to be generally very good sportsmen. I personally always call all my own errors in scrabble when playing my aunt and always instantly defer any challenges when she is at the table. Against other opponents I am known to behave atrociously, but with faint sarcastic deference. When sailing there is no question, always render all possible assistance. Yay for fair play!
posted by Divine_Wino at 12:19 AM on December 7, 2011


Bjørnar Hakensmoen is a good sport.
posted by jade east at 12:27 AM on December 7, 2011


Correction: Tana Umaga is not an All Black coach, he was the team captain. He did not run onto the field to assist the Welsh player, he was already on the field playing the game and abandoned his position to help the downed player.
posted by WhackyparseThis at 1:27 AM on December 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I can't believe John Landy isn't up there.

Landy, the 1500 metre favourite at the Australian national championships in 1956, gave up his second place position to run back and see if the Junior Champion - who had tripped and fallen - was okay.

Even more astonishing, after ascertaining that Ron Clarke was okay, he then preceded to run again, overtook all the other competitors and won the race in 4:04. That's what a baller looks like, folks.
posted by smoke at 1:54 AM on December 7, 2011 [14 favorites]


Great list, some of these are amazing stories. That said, this:
an Iranian footballer who purposefully kicked the ball out of play when the opponents' goalkeeper was injured
...seems to be business as usual for most football matches I've seen. Admittedly, it's pretty much the only example of fair play you're likely to see in football nowadays, but still...
posted by ZsigE at 2:12 AM on December 7, 2011


seems to be business as usual for most football matches I've seen

That's what I was thinking too, but looking at the video somebody else linked above, he was actually on the attack at that point. Most of the time when I've seen it before at soccer matches involved midfield play, I think. But then I'm certainly not an avid watcher of soccer either.
posted by kmz at 3:09 AM on December 7, 2011


Since the FPP left out the most important detail - who won the Gold - I checked. Wikipedia says that Germany won the Gold, Denmark the Silver, and Australia the Bronze in the 64 Olympics, but this would seem inconsistent with the other facts presented in the FPP.
posted by three blind mice at 4:00 AM on December 7, 2011


I was watching a touring indy pro wrestling match once. The heel climbed up the turnbuckle, but then his feet slipped out from under him, causing him to fall onto the turnbuckle in a way that looked very painful to his crotch. The face stopped posing and went over to make sure that the heel was okay. The heel confirmed that he was fine, and the face clobbered him with a backhand.
posted by Faint of Butt at 4:35 AM on December 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


ZsigE: "seems to be business as usual for most football matches"
As far as I know it has actually been prohibited now with the reasoning that only the referee should decide when to stop play for treatment of injured players.

Speaking of football, I love this rather unusual fair play example where Ajax scores by accident against Cambuur.
posted by brokkr at 4:36 AM on December 7, 2011


Not that I don't think these are all heartwarming, but clicking on the the Hamit Altintop story leads to this:
Altintop gave his sweatshirt to a little Kazakh boy who was participating at the ceremony and was suffering from the extremely cold weather. Altintop’s teammates followed his example and in this way the Kazakh children joined the ceremony wearing the sweatshirts of the Turkish players.

That's some really good psychological warfare right there.
posted by beaucoupkevin at 4:56 AM on December 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Godforsaken Sea has a pretty amazing account of a boat turning around and beating back upwind for two or three days to find a disabled competitor in 40 ft. Seas.
posted by Devils Rancher at 4:57 AM on December 7, 2011


There's also the story of a domestic pro cyclist, Isaac Howe, stopping to save a rider from falling over a cliff - while he was in the race lead, which he sacrificed to help the other rider.
posted by entropone at 5:03 AM on December 7, 2011


This from Paolo Di Canio.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EWdf5ZLbtYo

Not bad for a fascist sympathiser.

Re : Stirling Moss. Moss's contemporary, Fangio, was generally acknowledged to be a much more gifted driver. My dad reckons when Moss won at Silverstone it was because Fangio chose not to beat him, but instead to let him have his moment in front of his home fans.
posted by devious truculent and unreliable at 5:24 AM on December 7, 2011


There's also the story of a domestic pro cyclist, Isaac Howe, stopping to save a rider from falling over a cliff - while he was in the race lead, which he sacrificed to help the other rider.

This is definitely coming into 'who wouldn't' levels of moral requirement for me.
posted by jaduncan at 5:25 AM on December 7, 2011


For those who display the opposite traits, they should hand out crowns of pyrite-leaf dried manure.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:30 AM on December 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Interesting to see this here. In the last game of MetaFilter Nomic the International Fair Play Committee was preparing to present me this award. But sadly my game was cut short when jealous competitors hounded me out for playing too excellently and selflessly.
posted by Meatbomb at 5:35 AM on December 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


In the end it's all about human excellence.
posted by Brian B. at 6:12 AM on December 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Since the FPP left out the most important detail - who won the Gold - I checked. Wikipedia says that Germany won the Gold, Denmark the Silver, and Australia the Bronze in the 64 Olympics, but this would seem inconsistent with the other facts presented in the FPP.

I think you were looking at the wrong chart in the Wikipedia entry. There were 5 sailing events -- this FPP is about the Flying Dutchman event. New Zealand won the gold, Great Britain the Silver, and the U.S. the bronze.
posted by JanetLand at 6:18 AM on December 7, 2011


It's nice to read about this kind of thing, rather than about athletes like Tonya Harding.
posted by orange swan at 6:29 AM on December 7, 2011


That Ajax fairplay video is superb. Not only for showing sportsmanship, but also the deep and twisting psychology of sport.

(1) Ajax guy nonchalantly boots it upfield after game stop...ball goes in goal
(2) The shock and embarrassment of the opposing goal keeper
(3) The confusion and panic on both sides
(4) The helpless, sheepish look of the booting Ajax player's face
(5) Some ecstatic Ajax teamates give him due for wierd fate, congratulate him on the goal
(6) Incredulous opposing players
(Although the video doesn't show it, I'm wondering how much consensus there was that the opponents would have a free run at the goal once there was a restart.)
(7) Opposing midfielder takes a hack at the ball...and MISSES wide!
(8) 2nd opposing player tracks down errant kick WITH inches to spare and redirects to goal to save face for returned favor from Ajax.

...all within about 20 seconds of play. This is why people love sports.

It's not just the adrenaline of competition and smiting your enemies, it's the gamut of human emotion.
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 6:29 AM on December 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


seems to be business as usual for most football matches I've seen

Yeah, interesting clip. He must have seen something I didn't to make him think that the keeper was seriously hurt because otherwise it was a fair collision and, from what I can see in the clip, I wouldn't have been able to (or been trying to) ascertain how hurt the keeper was in his position.

But, yes, given that he perceived the keeper to be injured, that's what you do.
posted by cmoj at 7:40 AM on December 7, 2011


Monti was also the first winner of the Pierre de Coubertin medal.
posted by djb at 7:49 AM on December 7, 2011


David Purley should be mentioned. Warning, possibly the most heartbreaking thing you'll watch in a long time.
posted by Redgrendel2001 at 9:01 AM on December 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


In the end it's all about human excellence.

Be excellent to each other?
posted by book 'em dano at 11:09 AM on December 7, 2011


I couldn't actually watch the David Purley video - nothing but the description makes me feel sick and horrified for him, having to live through that. Sometimes one man doing what is right just isn't enough. How the officials could let the race continue under those circumstances... Is there some kind of opposite of fair play award that could be doled out to them? How utterly callous to let the race continuing take precedence over saving a man's life. I wonder how those drivers who didn't notice, didn't get the order to stop felt after the smoke had cleared.
posted by harujion at 11:32 AM on December 7, 2011


Too be fair the other people in the David Purley video are not wearing flame retarding suits.

Having been within 30 feet of a car fire and finding that unbearably hot, I certainly wouldn't have joined in to flip the car over.

Walking into a fire and grabbing metal is massively heroic in a way I could never be.
posted by srboisvert at 11:46 AM on December 7, 2011


Tana Umaga got one of these?! This is the guy who basically tried to kill Brian O'Driscoll. The leopard does change it's spots, it seems.
posted by dmt at 1:10 PM on December 7, 2011


Why don't they add almost all people who play Ultimate Frisbee to this list?

Playing with sportspersonship ("Spirit of the Game") is written into the rules.

http://wfdf.org/index.php?page=rules/spirit.htm
posted by jjderooy at 9:08 PM on December 7, 2011


Thanks for posting this; I love the idea of such a medal/list.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:09 PM on December 7, 2011


The yacht race story is nice, and it's always good to applaud good sportsmanship, but ideally it should not be considered unusual. Rule 1 in competitive sailing (technically rule 1.1 of the ISAF Racing Rules of Sailing) is "A boat or competitor shall give all possible help to any person or vessel in danger." That's a tradition as old as sailing itself, as well as a part of US and international law,
posted by Wretch729 at 12:06 PM on December 8, 2011


jjderooy: "Why don't they add almost all people who play Ultimate Frisbee to this list?

Playing with sportspersonship ("Spirit of the Game") is written into the rules.

http://wfdf.org/index.php?page=rules/spirit.htm
"

As a long-time Ultimate player, this is more often used as a club to shame your opponent than as an actual standard of behavior that players hold themselves to. Watch any high-level ultimate game and you'll see all the same basic behaviors you see at an NBA game. Writing it down doesn't make it real.

I could rant for pages about why I think "spirit of the game" is bull***t, but I'll restrain myself.
posted by that's candlepin at 12:30 PM on December 8, 2011


> "A boat or competitor shall give all possible help to any person or vessel in danger."

Yacht racing is somewhat unusual (compared to most sports) in that the competitors are often the only people close enough to help in an emergency. In addition, the boat giving aid is generally credited back the time it took them to help. They just report to the race committee how much time it took. (Though this rule was apparently not in effect in the original story).
posted by Horselover Fat at 7:19 AM on December 9, 2011


This post is totally full of win.
posted by not_on_display at 9:55 PM on January 5, 2012


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