Stupidity or Sportsmanship

What is sportsmanship? Is racing in a hard fought battle but placing second, still a victory?

Put yourself in Cecil Healy’s shoes (or his wool racing swim costume) at the 1912 Olympics. Healy, of Australasia (combined teams of Australia and New Zealand), had swum a time that was the unofficial world record in the 100fr eight years before in 1904. Sadly he was unable to attend the 1908 Olympics because he couldn’t afford it. Finally in 1912, racing in Stockholm harbour in the 100m freestyle, his chance to win had arrived.

In 1912 the swimming races were held in the Stockholm harbour.

After the 100fr heats, he ranked second and then swam in the first semifinal. He won his semifinal but very strangely, in the second semi final, three important swimmers from USA were missing; including Hawaiian swimmer Duke Kahanamoku. It was reported to be a management error. Technically since they missed their semifinal they were excluded from the final. Good news for Cecil right?

The error should have cost the trio their chance to race in the final but Cecil felt this was unfair. He wanted to win against ALL of the best swimmers and spearheaded an appeal. The appeal was successful despite protests by other teams. So a special race was held and Kahanamoku qualified for the final. In the final Kahanamoku won and Cecil was second.

In sportsmanship ethical questions abound. Could you live with knowing your gold was tarnished by a management error? Even if it had nothing to do with you? Cecil Healy could not abide a tarnished gold medal and his silver was won in a hard fought race.

The Duke was an all round athlete and likely his personality helped his re-instatement into the final in 1912.

Cecil Healy died in the battle of the Somme in 1918. Cecil had combined with his Australasian teammates and won gold in the relay so he was still an Olympic gold medalist. He is the only Australian Olympic gold medalist to die in action.

About Coach Gary

I competed in the 1988 Olympics in Seoul representing Canada and coached in the 2000 and 2004 Olympics for Great Britain. I have a degree in History and a minor degree in Psychology from University of Calgary. I have travelled extensively and have been very lucky to see so much of the world while representing Canada and Great Britain at swimming competitions. I am very proud of the fact that I coached a swimmer to become number one in the world in the fastest swimming race in 2002. I pride myself in my ability to find new and interesting ways to teach swimming. I am an accomplished artist specialising in sculpture, I have another blog called 'swimmingart' where I publish some of my swimming drawings. I have three young children; all boys. I have recently taken up painting and yoga....but not at the same time. You can see my new paintings at: https://www.artgallery.co.uk/artist/gary_Vandermeulen
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1 Response to Stupidity or Sportsmanship

  1. Pingback: A Barbaric Stroke | swimcoachingblog

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