Sportsmanship and the Olympics


“In the name of all the competitors I promise that we shall take part in these Olympic Games, respecting and abiding by the rules which govern them, committing ourselves to a sport without doping and without drugs, in the true spirit of sportsmanship, for the glory of sport and the honor of our teams.”

This is the Olympic athletes’ oath.

The judges at the Games take a slightly different oath:

“In the name of all the judges and officials, I promise that we shall officiate in these Olympic Games with complete impartiality, respecting and abiding by the rules which govern them in the true spirit of sportsmanship.”

These oaths are not just words, but promises.  Promises that these athletes and judges will act fairly and in doing so, honor themselves and their countries.

The faith in these oaths has been challenged throughout the history of Olympic Games and sport.  Many examples of performance drug use and abuse to have plagued not only amateur, but more recently, professional sports.  No Canadian old enough to remember, can forget the pride when Ben Johnson won a gold medal in the 100 metre sprint for Canada in the 1988 Summer Olympic Games.  However, likewise, no Canadian will ever forget the shame that came following the positive doping result that stripped Johnson and Canada of its medal.

There is also the unforgettable example of the historic and dramatic event of “The Whack Heard Round the World”.  This referring to the incident between Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan.  It was the ultimate in “unsportsmanlike conduct”.  In preparation for the Lillehammer Winter Olympics, Kerrigan was clubbed in the right knee with a police baton by Shane Stant during a practice on the eve of the U.S. Figure Skating Championships.  This assault was planned by rival Tonya Harding’s ex-husband Jeff Gillooly co-conspirator Shawn Eckardt.  This shameful event risked Kerrigan’s chances of not only medalling but even competing at the Olympics.

As for the judges, there is always the rumor that judging is “fixed” or in some way biased or judges are bribed.  This rumor came true when a judging scandal in Salt Lake City temporarily denied Canadians Jamie Sale and David Pelletier gold due to backroom dealing between judges.

These examples along with so many other negative news headlines have stained the Olympic spirit and oaths.  They almost make us almost lose our faith in sports and sportsmanship. Almost…

It’s unfortunate that these isolated cases come to light on the world stage.  On the bright side, these ARE isolated cases.  These are not the norm. The vast majority Olympians and judges have honor, integrity and make us proud.

These 2014 Sochi Olympics have given us some more reasons to retain our faith in sportsmanship.  Two instances are top of mind.  First, is the Canadian cross country ski coach that handed a Russian competitor a ski.  The skier’s ski had broken earlier in the race during a quick downhill corner.  The athlete was not in contention to win at that point in the race – he was simply trying to make it the last couple of hundred metres down the 1.7 km course.  Justin Wadsworth, the Canadian coach, saw he was in trouble and wanted him to finish the race “with dignity”.  He grabbed a spare ski he’d brought for Canadian racer Alex Harvey and ran onto the track. Gafarov stopped. Wadsworth kneeled beside him. No words passed between them. Gafarov only nodded. Wadsworth pulled off the broken equipment and replaced it. Gafarov set off again. Wadsworth not only is a great example of the Olympic spirit but happens to also be a three-time Olympian.  We all need to remember his name – for his athletic achievements and this inspirational story.

Secondly is the story of another Canadian.  This time it is a speed skater Gilmore Junio who made the choice to withdraw from the 1,000 metre race, effectively gifting his place in the race to fellow Canadian Denny Morrison.  The 1,000 metres isn’t Junio’s specialty while Morrison — a two-time world championship silver medalist in the event — offered a better chance of earning a medal for Canada.  What a difficult and selfless decision this was.  Junio, qualified for one of Canada’s four spots in the event fair and square and even had family there to watch the event.    But Junio gave of himself for the betterment of his team.  Gilmore Junio is the second name I want everyone to remember.

There have been some “bad apples” in the past, present and unfortunately, likely the future.  However, I hope that we all remember that these are few and far between.  I hope that the media don’t draw much attention to these and we, as social media fanatics and fans of sport, don’t help to draw attention.  There are a tremendous number of amazing, selfless and faith-inspiring stories happening every day.  Not just at the Olympics.  These are the stories I want to get all of the attention.  These are the stories we all need to share, tweet and like.


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