The word “sportsmanship” emerged as a noun in the late 19th century to describe the conduct, attitudes, and values associated with fair play, respect, and integrity in sports. These are qualities that are often sadly absent from the world of professional sports these days, as any regular watcher of the Premier League could tell you.
However, there are examples of truly sporting behaviour which have shone through over the years. We have picked out 5 classic examples, all of which go to show that decency and fairness still have a major role to play in pro sports.
1. Abbey D’Agostino and Nikki Hamblin’s Unfortunate Collision:
During the women’s 5,000-meter race at the 2016 Rio Olympics, Abbey D’Agostino of the United States and Nikki Hamblin of New Zealand collided, causing both runners to fall. Despite their injuries, D’Agostino selflessly encouraged Hamblin to continue, sacrificing her own chances of winning. Their display of sportsmanship highlighted the true spirit of the Olympics and earned them global recognition and admiration.
2. Paulo di Canio Takes Matters in Hand:
In a remarkable act of sportsmanship, during a match between West Ham and Everton, Paolo di Canio, playing for West Ham at the time, displayed tremendous compassion and integrity. As the game reached its final moments, Everton goalkeeper Paul Gerrard suffered a knee injury and lay on the field in obvious pain. Recognizing the severity of the situation, Di Canio, without hesitation, caught a pass instead of taking advantage of the situation and scoring an easy goal. His decision ensured that Gerrard had sufficient time to receive the necessary medical attention.
3. No Stolen Win for Ivan Fernández Anaya:
In a cross-country race in 2012, Kenyan athlete Abel Mutai mistakenly stopped running just meters before the finish line, thinking he had already crossed it. Spanish runner Ivan Fernández Anaya, who was trailing behind, could have easily overtaken Mutai and claimed the victory. Instead, Fernández Anaya selflessly guided Mutai to the actual finish line, refusing to take advantage of his opponent’s mistake. His act of sportsmanship showcased compassion and fairness, earning him widespread admiration.
4. Pete Goss Faces Down a Storm:
On Christmas Day in 1996, sailor Pete Goss found himself in the midst of the grueling Vendee Globe yacht race, facing treacherous conditions in the unforgiving Southern Ocean. In an awe-inspiring act of courage and sportsmanship, Goss abandoned his own race and set out on a daring solo mission to rescue fellow competitor Raphaël Dinelli, whose boat had capsized and left him stranded. Braving towering waves and hurricane-force winds, Goss navigated through the treacherous waters, eventually locating Dinelli and successfully rescuing him from certain peril. Goss’s selflessness and unwavering determination in the face of extreme adversity exemplified the true spirit of sportsmanship, earning him tremendous respect and admiration within the sailing community and beyond.
5. No Foul for Fowler:
When Arsenal played Liverpool in 1997 both teams were in contention for the Premier League title and the game was played in a raucous atmosphere. Liverpool were a goal ahead when Robbie Fowler went down in the Arsenal box after a challenge from keeper David Seaman. The referee awarded a penalty, but Fowler went to him to ask for the decision to be reversed as he said it had not been a foul. The referee stuck to his guns, and even though Fowler missed the ensuing penalty kick, teammate McAteer followed up to score what would end up being Liverpool’s winning goal.
All of our examples illustrate that sporting behaviour goes beyond winning and losing, instead emphasizing respect, fairness, and integrity. Whether it is helping a fallen competitor, waiting for an opponent to recover, or turning down a penalty, these athletes have exemplified the true essence of sportsmanship, leaving an enduring impact on the world of sports.