Battle Buddy Series – A Prayer for the NOT So Good Sport
By Darian McIntosh
That’s where excellent sportsmanship comes in. Last time, I discussed the wonderful displays of sportsmanship I was seeing during the many different Olympic events. It was motivating to see so many athletes that were truly happy for their opponent on such a large scale. There were a multitude of inspirational tales that came about during Tokyo 2020. We recently saw the closing of the Olympic Games. Sportsmanship is at the very core of the concept I continuously talk about in this series but it extends even a bit beyond. To have a battle buddy, we are reminded of someone by your side, rooting for you every step of the way. But what about your opponent? They don’t usually root for you. Or do they?
The story that resoundingly stands out in my mind as outstanding gamesmanship overall has to be when two high-jumpers, one from Qatar, the other from Italy, were tied. They were given the choice to continue with a jump-off to determine one winner or to share the gold. Without hesitation and without even a verbal answer to the official who gave them this choice, they chose to share the gold. Their answer came in the form of a hug of epic proportions, followed by jumps of pure elation. It is difficult for me to even describe the scene without a tear welling up; their joy was so immense for one another and their friendship.
Tokyo Marathon 2021
Let’s get to the competition we really came here for. The marathon portion of the games was no different from the other sports, in that it had plenty of drama. To begin with, the actual route was not even in Tokyo but in Sapporo, further north in Japan. The decision to hold it there was made because it typically tends to be cooler in the north of the island nation but the ongoing heat wave made that an obsolete theory. Conditions during the marathon weekend were brutal with high heat and high humidity. The marathon in Sapporo saw the highest number of runners that did not cross the finish line in several decades as a result of injuries and the extreme heat. This was true for both the men’s and women’s races.
It certainly wasn’t all bad news. There were plenty of triumphs along the way. For my blog, I will talk about the story from the marathon races that inspired me the most. In the women’s marathon, the USA saw a bronze medal winner up on that podium. The most awe-inspiring thing about it was that Molly Seidel won the medal in only her third-ever marathon. Her first one? The Olympic trials no-less. Before that, she was on no one’s radar. No one expected her to even place in the top ten at the Olympics but instead, she became the first American woman to medal in the marathon since 2004. She was actually quoted as stating, “I want everyone to be saying ‘Who the hell is this girl?’” Mission accomplished Molly. Well done!
One less than inspiring incident had us all questioning the motives of an athlete in the men’s marathon. If his motives were less than honorable, we can all look at his actions at what NOT to do to our fellow athletes, for it was these actions that displayed the opposite of excellent sportsmanship. I won’t name names here but one athlete in particular was caught on camera grabbing for a water bottle. Instead of grabbing the first one in the row, this athlete left his hand out to knock over almost every single bottle in the row, save for the very last one that he grabbed for himself. This action left a few other athletes without the chance for water until the next available station. Without knowing the particulars, watching this video looks very incriminating for him. Initially when I saw the story headlines, I immediately jumped to his defense in my mind because who would want to do a thing like that? After watching the video, I had to admit to myself, it did look a bit purposeful. It wasn’t bumbling in nature like a true accident might be but well-executed in the way that his palm was left open and not grasping until that last one.
Eventually, this athlete did come out with a statement to indicate that it was indeed accidental. In his defense, he was sandwiched in between two other athletes making it difficult to reach the bottles. It was also near the end of the marathon. His claims of losing lucidity and energy would certainly not be out of place given the circumstances of the intense heat and humidity. Whatever you choose to believe, the outcome of the race was this: one of the runners directly behind him who did not get a water because of his actions went on to finish second, winning the silver medal; the runner in question placed 17th. Some say it’s karma. I will let you decide for yourself if you believe the same. In incidents like these where it is difficult to determine, I believe in the benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise.
The moral of this story is that when engaging in extreme events like a marathon or race-running of any kind, we have to be each other’s battle buddies. Whether you are the most well-prepared athlete there or the one whose only goal is to get across that finish line regardless of the time it takes, we can support every single person for being the truly amazing individual that they are. When it comes to awesome sportsmanship, there are no opponents, only advocates.
Battle Buddy Step #10: Find your inner goodness