Thursday, May 21, 2009

Sport's Genuine Good Guys

GOOD deeds on the sports field are rare these days. Even so, another one emerged last weekend when an old friend of mine, Ian Chadband of the Daily Telegraph, told the splendid tale of the unwanted Olympic silver medal from the men's 200 metres at last year's Olympic Games in Beijing.The medal was won by the 2004 champion, the American Shawn Crawford, who had crossed the line in fourth place only to benefit from the disqualification of two of the three men in front of him.
Usain Bolt won the race in a world record time but the third place finisher Wallace Spearmon of the United States was the first to be disqualified for running out of his lane.
In turn, the Americans appealed against the second place finisher Churandy Martina of the Netherlands Antilles who had committed the same transgression. He too was thrown out.
But Crawford found it all rather unseemly. And eight days later on the eve of the Weltklasse meeting in Zurich, Martina received an unusual present.
Delivered to the reception of his hotel in a spike bag was a red case and a note which read: "Churandy, I know this can't replace the moment, but I want you to have this because I believe it's rightfully yours – Shawn Crawford".
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Inside the case was the Olympic silver medal.
It's a deed that makes my top ten sporting gestures. Here, in no particular order, are the other nine.
The 1969 Ryder Cup at Royal Birkdale had not been played in the best of spirits. The home side had been largely responsible with the non-playing captain of the GB&I squad, Eric Brown, instructing his players not to help look for their opponents' balls in the rough.
But after three days of often bitter competition, the outcome hinged on two putts on the final green of the final singles match involving Jack Nicklaus and Tony Jacklin. First, the American holed his from four feet leaving Jacklin to make his from roughly half the distance to halve the match and ensure the first tie in Ryder Cup history.

Nicklaus conceded the putt and his words to Jacklin entered golfing folklore: "I didn't think you were going to miss that putt but I didn't want to give you the opportunity."
Football had never seen anything like it. August 2007, the City Ground, and the Carling Cup re-match between Forest and Leicester City. The first game had been abandoned when the Foxes' Ireland international Clive Clarke suffered a heart attack at half-time.
Clarke had to be revived twice by paramedics using a defibrillator after his heart stopped and efforts to use mouth-to-mouth resuscitation had failed. Forest were leading 1-0 at the time but swiftly agreed to the game's abandonment. Former Forest boss Gary Megson, then manager at City, earned plaudits with his gesture at the start of the second game.
Leicester players stood aside allowing Forest goalkeeper Paul Smith to take the ball from the kick-off and score allowing Forest to regain the advantage that they had when the original game was abandoned.
Australian athlete John Landy may have narrowly missed out on becoming the first sub four-minute mile but he will be remembered as the finest gentleman to have run the distance.
Two years after Roger Bannister's feat in Oxford, Landy was targeting an improvement of the world record at the 1956 Australian championships. The race was being led by another great distance runner, Ron Clarke, when he stumbled and fell.
As the rest of the field streamed past, Landy stopped, jogged back, and helped his rival back to his feet. Landy then got himself back into the race and, remarkably, won it. He missed the world record by just six seconds
Former West Ham footballer Paolo di Canio has political leanings that may not be to everyone's taste but his sense of fair play is one that virtually every current day Premier League player would do well to adopt.
It was December 2000 and the league game against Everton was drifting towards a 1-1 draw. But then, with moments left, the ball was swung in from the right and Di Canio was presented with an empty net into which it would have been a formality to head the winner.
Instead, having spotted the Everton goalkeeper Paul Gerrard lying injured on the ground, he caught it instead.
The 2003 Tour de France had reached a crucial point. It was the final climb to Luz-Ardiden in the Pyrenees and the two main protagonists, Lance Armstrong and Jan Ullrich, were clear of the peleton and scrapping for the yellow jersey.
Then Armstrong was clipped by a spectator and fell. Instead of kicking on up the climb, Ullrich stopped riding and waited for the American to remount. And once he was back on terms, the pair resumed racing again with Armstrong going on to take the stage and establish a winning margin with just five stages left.
The gesture was widely acknowledged as payback for an earlier good deed when, on a sharp Pyrenean descent, Ullrich plunged off the road and Armstrong denied himself the opportunity to make good his escape.
"What goes around comes around," Armstrong said, "because I waited for him on the Peyresourde climb when he had a serious crash two years ago, and I think Jan remembered."
Fencer Judy Guinness was just 21 when she represented Great Britain at the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles. Could she become Britain's first gold medalist in the sport?
She reached the last two in her discipline and, after a closely-contested final against Ellen Preis of Austria, was declared the winner by the judges. But the result was reversed when Guinness pointed out that the officials had missed two hits by her opponent. It cost the Briton the gold medal.
Bobby Jones was the greatest golfer of his generation. The American won 13 Majors between 1923 and 1930 and would have won 14 were it not for an incident in the first round of the 1925 US Open.
Having hit his drive into the rough at the 10th, Jones was addressing the ball when it moved fractionally. No one else noticed. But Jones called the infringement on himself and, with it, a one-shot penalty. Jones went on to lose the championship by one shot and, after being commended for his fine deed of sportsmanship, said: "You might as well praise a man for not breaking into banks."
At the 1936 Olympics – and with Adolf Hitler watching from high above in the daunting stadium – the black American athlete Jesse Owens was struggling in the long jump.
Twice already, Owens had over-stepped the board and was in danger of elimination. His main rival for the gold medal was the German Lutz Long who suggested to Owens that he recalculate his run-up. Owens took the advice and went on to take the title at the expense of the German.
"You can melt down all the medals and cups I have won," Owens said, "and they wouldn't be worth the plating on the 24-carat friendship I felt for Lutz Long at that moment."
Former New Zealand captain Jeremy Coney was an unremarkable Test cricketer but a great sport. He demonstrated this at the 1986 Lord's Test when England wicketkeeper Bruce French retired hurt after being felled by a bouncer delivered by his former Nottinghamshire team-mate Richard Hadlee.
When the Kiwis came to bat, French was still not well enough to resume. It was the Test when England used four 'keepers. First, Bill Athey took the gloves. But then Coney agreed to allow England to draft in 45-year-old Bob Taylor who was long retired but sitting not so very far away in a hospitality tent.
The former Derbyshire man did an admirable job for the rest of the day before – again with Coney's approval – the Hampshire keeper Bobby Parks was introduced the following morning to the game.

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