True sporting spirit

It is good to note those moments during the Olympics when sportsmanship won out over the intense drive drive to win.

Days later, at the Olympic Stadium, Gianmarco Tamberi of Italy and Mutaz Barshim of Qatar found themselves in a situation they’d talked about but never experienced — they were tied.

Both high jumpers were perfect until the bar was set to the Olympic-record height of 2.39 meters (7 feet, 10 inches). Each missed three times.

They could have gone to a jump-off, but instead decided to share the gold.

“I know for a fact that for the performance I did, I deserve that gold. He did the same thing, so I know he deserved that gold,” Barshim said. “This is beyond sport. This is the message we deliver to the young generation.”

After they decided, Tamberi slapped Barshim’s hand and jumped into his arms.

“Sharing with a friend is even more beautiful,” Tamberi said. “It was just magical.”

Watch the moment.

But that was not all. Here are more moments of sportsmanship.

And finally, Simone Biles returned to compete in the balance beam, eliminating a move that had been prevented by her ‘twisties’ mental problem that sidelined her from the other events.

She was one of the very biggest stars of the Tokyo Games, by far the best gymnast in the world, only to find that a mental block left her physically incapable of doing the skills that had put her on a pedestal for so long. As the world speculated about her, she returned to the stadium each day and she was the loudest person in the arena, cheering on both her teammates and opponents to the biggest successes of their life without a hint of bitterness.

And then, unexpectedly, she returned. Biles closed off the women’s gymnastics events in Tokyo with one of the most heartening moments of the games as she surprised herself by winning an excellent bronze medal on the balance beam with a score of 14.000. Biles has been unable to twist over the past week and so she simply took out the only twist in her routine, swapping her full-twisting double back dismount for a simple double pike.

It is nice that Biles was able to end this Olympics as a competitor and not just as a cheerleader. She has brought our attention to a little known but serious problem that even she does not quite understand.

While everyone has an opinion on what prompted Biles to withdraw from the event, from pressure to speculation about her, it is clear that Biles just does not know. She says that the issues arose after USA’s imperfect qualifying performances, in which they were beaten by Russia. Although the gymnasts themselves were fine, there was a massive rush to rectify their issues in training. As she attempted to tumble on the floor, “that’s when the wires just snapped. Things were not connecting and I don’t know what went wrong. People say it’s stress related but I could not tell you because I felt fine.”

Not competing has been difficult enough, but she knew it was out of the question. Coming to terms with her diminished capabilities was even harder: “My problem was why my body and my mind weren’t in sync. That’s what I couldn’t wrap my head around. What happened? Was I overtired? Where did the wires not connect? That’s what was really hard because it’s like, I trained my whole life, I was physically ready, I was fine and then this happens and it’s something that was so out of my control.”

The issues have by no means disappeared. She still wants to vomit every single time she sees a gymnast attempt a double-twisting double somersault “because I cannot fathom how they’re doing it. I don’t understand.” Just over a week ago, that was the least complicated skill in her floor routine. When she returns home, she will have to process all that has happened. She has all of that to wrap her head around before she even considers her future in the sport.

What is clear, however, is that this experience has taught her numerous important truths about herself and life in general that will stick with her no matter what she does next: “At the end of the day,” she said. “My mental and physical health is better than any medal.”

Her last statement should be the mantra for all athletes, coaches, and sports officials.


  1. birgerjohansson says

    Everyone who is familiar with Trump and other patriots know life is about ‘winning’ and ‘losing’.
    Tamberi and Barshim are betraying the whole concept upon which civilisation is founded! (sarcasm)

  2. johnson catman says

    re birgerjohansson @1: Obviously Tamberi and Barshim are BOTH losers because neither crushed the other! So sad! (/s)

  3. says

    Clowns and blowhards like Piers Morgan and others are whining about “not having a winner”, then complaining about golf having a playoff. 9_9 Make up your mind, charlies.

    Nobody complained when bobsledders tied for gold multiple times (nor demanded a run off), and boxing always awards two bronze medals (so the losers of the semifinals don’t have to fight again). Why does equal performance bother them so much?

  4. avid_reader says

    I came across Jules Feiffer’s short story “Harold Swerg” while working at my local library in high school and it has stayed with me ever since.

    It seems like it was originally printed in the December 22, 1958 edition of Sports Illustrated as “The Man Who Wouldn’t” and they actually have it available on their web site starting at—106—image

    It’s a quick read, 5 pages of mostly cartoons, and just as relevant today as ever.

  5. Mano Singham says


    Thanks for that link to the Ffeiffer cartoon. It is exactly spot on.

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