Top 10 Moments of Olympic Sportsmanship


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Olympians want to win, but without sportsmanship nobody wins. To mark Olympic Day on June 23, we’re looking ‘beyond the podium’ and celebrating the power of the Games.

View the top 10 moments of olympic sportsmanship.

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Top 10 Moments of Olympic Sportsmanship

  2. 2. SEOUL 1988 – Lawrence Lemieux – Letter of CongratulationsCanadian sailor Lawrence Lemieux was willing to sacrifice his own medal chances in Seoul to save thelives of fellow competitors. While competing in the fifth of his seven races in the Finn class, Lemieux wassitting in second place when he veered off course after seeing Singaporean sailors Joseph Chan andShaw Her Siew from the 470 class in the water next to their capsized boat and in danger of being carriedout to sea. Lemieux had to go downwind to first pull Chan onto his boat while taking on water and thenwent to Siew who was clinging to the boat. Lemieux waited for assistance to arrive before returning to hisrace and finishing well behind the leaders. Afterwards, Lemieux was credited with a second place finish inthat race en route to finishing 11th overall. He would also be awarded a Pierre de Coubertin medal by then-IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch who told him “By your sportsmanship, self-sacrifice and courageyou embody all that is right with the Olympic ideal.”2SAVINGLIVES1
  3. 3. ATHENS 2004 – Vanderlei de Lima – IOC Pierre de Coubertin MedalBrazil’s Vanderlei de Lima was leading the marathon at Athens 2004 when he was suddenly pushed to theside of the road by a protestor with less than seven kilometres to go. Although de Lima was able to returnto the race, his momentum and rhythm was gone and he was soon passed by two other runners.Afterwards, de Lima said he was “happy” to take home the bronze medal but would later comment that “ifit were not for that lunatic, I am sure I would have won the gold.” When de Lima arrived at PanathinaikoStadium, the crowd which had seen the incident on the big screen gave him a massive cheer. During themedal presentation held as part of the Closing Ceremony, the IOC presented de Lima with the Pierre deCoubertin medal in recognition of his “exceptional demonstration of fair play and Olympic values.”3PERSEVERANCEPREVAILS2
  4. 4. ATHENS 2004 – Alexei Nemov – Pierre de Couberin World TrophyArtistic gymnastics had a number of controversies at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens that wouldeventually lead to an overhaul of the judging system. During the event final for the men’s horizontal bar,the scores did not seem to match the routines that were performed, especially in the eyes of thespectators in attendance. Following the performance of fan favourite and 12-time Olympic medallistAlexei Nemov, the crowd booed, jeered and whistled. There was a 15-minute delay due to the disturbance,during which Nemov’s score was revised but it did not affect his placement which continued to rile thecrowd. American Paul Hamm, who had won the all-around title earlier in the Games, was next to compete.To allow Hamm to continue in peace, Nemov stepped onto the competition platform and both thankedthe crowd for their support while pleading for them to be quiet. Nemov ended up in fifth place.4ULTIMATECOOL3
  5. 5. BEIJING 2008 – Pavle Kostov, Petar Cupac, Ivan Bulaja – Pierre de Coubertin World TrophyCroatian sailors Pavle Kostov and Petar Cupac may have finished 17th in the 49er class in Beijing, but theirboat was a huge part of the gold medal. Kostov and Cupac had not qualified for the medal race featuringthe top 10 teams. Along with their coach Ivan Bulaja they were in the Olympic Village when they heard ofthe disaster that had struck the Danish team, who were leading the standings heading into the final race.Just 15 minutes before the start, the Danish mast broke. After a call from the Danes, Kostov, Cupac andBulaja raced to the marina where they quickly prepared the boat and lent it to Jonas Warrer and MartinKirketerp who were able to start the race just four minutes after the other finalists and barely before thedeadline to start. The Danes finished seventh in the medal race, but that was enough to secure them thegold medal.5WIND INTHEIR SAILS4
  6. 6. LONDON 2012 – Daniel Gyurta – Diploma of HonourThe swimming world was shocked in April 2012 when 26-year-old Norwegian Alexander Dale Oen, the 2011world champion in the 100m breaststroke, was found dead in his hotel room in Arizona after an apparentheart attack during a training camp. Dale Oen’s good friend, Hungarian Daniel Gyurta, went on to winOlympic gold in the 200m breaststroke in London. Afterwards he declared that he would have an exactreplica of his gold medal made and delivered to the Dale Oen family. Since the IOC does not allow replicamedals, Gyurta instead had a special medal commissioned which he presented at the Norwegian SportsGala in January 2013. In a speech given in Norwegian, Gyurta said “Alexander was not only a fantasticcompetitor but also a great man and a true friend. I’m convinced that he would have won the gold medalat the Olympics, so this medal represents what he couldn’t achieve due to his tragic death.”6FOREVERFRIENDS5
  7. 7. SAPPORO 1972 – Dieter Speer – Diploma of HonourThe Soviet Union was a heavy favourite to defend its Olympic gold medal in the men’s biathlon 4x7.5kmrelay in Sapporo. The lead-off man was Alexander Tikhonov, who had been part of the gold medal-winning squad four years earlier. But during his leg, Tikhonov mis-stepped and broke a ski. Tikhonovforced himself to keep going on one ski until Dieter Speer, a member of the East German team that wasconsidered a top rival to the Soviets, gave Tikhonov one of his reserve skis. It did not fit Tikhonovperfectly, but with two skis back on his feet he was able to keep pace with the lead group. The Sovietswould go on to win gold while Speer and the East Germans ended up with the bronze.7RIVALGESTURE6
  8. 8. LOS ANGELES 1984 – Mohamed Ali Rashwan – Pierre de Coubertin World TrophyJapan’s Yasuhiro Yamashita was seen as a sure bet for judo gold in Los Angeles, having won the last threeworld titles in the +95kg weight class as well as the open class in 1981. He won his first Olympic match injust 27 seconds, but in his second match he tore a muscle in his right calf and was clearly limping as heleft the mat after his victory. His next opponent, France’s Laurent Del Colombo attacked the injury, butYamashita was able to counter and got the win to advance to the final. In that final he faced EgyptianMohamed Ali Rashwan and despite limping worse than ever was victorious in just over one minute. At thevictory ceremony, Rashwan the silver medallist had to help Yamashita step onto the top of the podiumbecause his leg was so sore. Afterwards Rashwan told reporters that he chose not to attack Yamashita’sinjured right leg because it was against his principles and he would not want to win in that way.8DIGNIFIEDGLORY7
  9. 9. BEIJING 2008 – Dara Torres – Diploma of HonourDara Torres was competing in her fifth Olympic Games in Beijing and was the oldest swimmer in the fieldat age 41. Despite being a competitor in search of her first individual Olympic gold medal, Torres wantedto make sure the 50m freestyle event had all the top athletes. As the eight swimmers in her semifinalwalked out to the blocks, Sweden’s Therese Alshammar had her suit rip. Torres tried to help her fix it, butwhen it became apparent that it wouldn’t be possible, Torres ran over to the side of the pool to inform anofficial that they not start the race until Alshammar had a chance to change. Once Alshammar returnedin a new suit, the competition could get underway. Torres posted the fastest time of the semifinals andwent on to win silver, missing the gold medal by just one-hundredth of a second.9WARDROBEMALFUNCTION8
  10. 10. ATHENS 2004 – Markus Rogan – Pierre de Coubertin World TrophyHeading into the Games, American Aaron Peirsol was the two-time defending world champion and worldrecord holder in the 200m backstroke, making him the clear favourite for Olympic gold. He delivered inthe final, winning in Olympic record time by a margin of 2.4 seconds over Austrian Markus Rogan. Butwhen the results were posted on the scoreboard, it showed that Peirsol had been disqualified for an illegalturn and Rogan was the victor. The international governing body, FINA, reinstated Peirsol’s medalbecause the violation had not been properly recorded. The Austrian team filed an appeal after Peirsol’sreinstatement but it was rejected. For his part, Rogan said it might have been the “shortest Olympicchampionship in history”. He also acknowledged that the medal did not belong to him and that Peirsolwas one of his closest friends and “nothing is as beautiful as friendship.” He was later named Austria’sSportsman of the Year, defeating star alpine skier Hermann Maier.10TURNINGTHE TIDES9
  11. 11. BEIJING 2008 – Gyorgy Kozmann – Letter of CongratulationsHungarian canoeist Gyorgy Kozmann almost didn’t compete in Beijing. Just a month prior to the Games,Kozmann’s longtime partner Gyorgy Kolonics had collapsed and died during a training session due toheart failure. Kozmann initially decided not to take part in the Games, but changed his mind after talkingwith teammates, coaches and Kolonics’ friends. Kozmann teamed with 21-year-old Olympic rookieTamas Kiss to win bronze in the C-2 1000m event, matching the medal that Kozmann and Kolonics hadwon four years earlier at Athens 2004.11HEAVYHEART10
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