The spirit of sportsmanship
There is a saying – Sports do not build character, they reveal it. The manner in which players celebrate their victory or accept their defeat speaks much about their nature and spirit.
When a player competes in an event, victory takes precedence over all other matters. Players play to win and all they have in mind is to trounce the opponent. Therefore, it is heartening to know about players who show magnanimity to their opponents.
There was a memorable moment in the Olympics last year when in the heat of 5000m, Nikki Hamblin tripped and fell, accidentally tripping up the USA’s D’Agostino.
The American gathered herself and got up and instead of continuing her race, she helped Hamblin before faltering on a clearly injured foot. Later, D’Agostino fell again and this time Hamblin helped her up and the two began to run the race together. Their healthy camaraderie was evident when they embraced each other at the finish line.
Nikki Hamblin or Abbey D’Agostino couldn’t win gold, silver or bronze in their respective event but they were presented with the Fair Play award, the only award of its type in the Olympics. The pair made headlines for capturing the ‘Olympic spirit’.
Another such instance of true sportsmanship came to light at the tense India vs Iran gold-medal match in women’s kabaddi at the 2014 Incheon Asian Games.
India, the defending champions were all set to win their second consecutive gold medal while Iran had been steadily improving as a team and was proving to be a formidable team and challenging opposition.
During the clash, an Iranian raider who was attired in full sleeved clothes and a ‘hijab’ was clearly shaken when her hijab was displaced accidentally. Her attention wavered and she clearly lost her focus. She could have been easily trapped by the robust Indian team, but instead, the Indians chose to help her cover her face and put the hijab back in place
This gesture by the Indian team warmed millions of hearts. It reminded us that showing compassion and respect to opponents is more important than winning ruthlessly.
The Indian women’s kabaddi team was showered with praise for their kind act and sportsmanship. They went on to emerge triumphant in that event and clinched the gold medal.
Their exemplary display of sportsmanship drew bigger headlines than winning the gold and gave a lesson to the world from which every sportsperson has something to learn.
While players are trained to focus on their game and emerge victorious, they should not only be trained to do regular practice and develop physical strength and stamina but also be trained to improve their mental strength so that they will play in the true spirit of the game and display the true spirit of sportsmanship.