Tuesday, June 25, 2024

The essence of sportsmanship

  In the 1964 Winter Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria, six-time medalist Eugenio Monti from Italy was favored to win the gold medal in the bobsledding pair event. After his team’s last run, it looked like they were going to make it.

  The British team, led by Tony Nash Jr., still had a chance, but before their final run, Nash discovered a critical axle bolt had broken on their sled. They were done.

  Without hesitation, Monti removed the bolt from his sled and rushed it up to Nash’s team. They were able to continue, and their run was so strong they won the gold medal.

  The Italian press viciously criticized Monti for giving up the gold, but he was steadfast. “Nash didn’t win because I gave him the bolt,” he said. “He won because he had the fastest run.”

  Olympic swimming medalist John Naber says a true sportsman, one who believes in the Olympic ideal, not only wants to win, he wants to win against his best opponent on his best day. A true sportsman is not elated, but disappointed, when top competitors are injured or disqualified.

  Monti won the gold medal at the next Winter Olympics, but it was his willingness to lose that earned him a prominent place in Olympic history. His act represents sportsmanship at its best: the pursuit of victory with zeal and passion, recognizing that there’s no true victory without honor.

  Today, with so many teams and athletes willing to cheat or behave badly to win, we need reminders of the noble potential of sports. Parents and coaches should teach youngsters that the real glory of sport is in the striving, not the winning.

  Editor's note: This article first appeared in the Capital City Free Press on February 28, 2010.

  About the author: Michael Josephson is the founder of the Josephson Institute, a non-for-profit organization that develops and delivers services and materials to increase ethical commitment, competence, and practice in all segments of society.

  This article was published by the Josephson Institute.

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