10 Inspiring Examples of Sportsmanship

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Sportsmanship is one of the most important parts of any athletic endeavor. Good sportsmanship encourages every athlete to give his or her all. It reminds us that everyone who takes the field is participating in a game they love and strive to excel at. It also provides an important example for others – students, spectators, and anyone else who might come in contact with the game.

Young executive shaking hands with soccer players

Let’s look at ten timeless examples of great sportsmanship:

1. Anton Gafarov and Competitors at the Sochi Winter Olympics

When Anton Gafarov, an acclaimed Russian skier, found himself with a broken ski at the Sochi Winter Olympic Games, he didn’t give up. There was no way he could earn a medal in the event, but he continued to walk toward the goal with his remaining ski. This, on its own, would have been a great example of perseverance: But Canadian ski coach Justin Wadsworth took it a step further. His team was already out of the race, and he had a ski to spare. He gave it to Gafarov so the latter could continue on. Ultimately, Gafarov placed second in the quarter-finals.

2. Brazil and Colombia at the 2014 World Cup

During the 2014 World Cup, few on the field played harder than James Rodriguez, a midfielder for the Colombian team. With his squad’s 2-1 loss, he saw his dreams of making it to the World Cup go up in smoke – despite his record-breaking performance, where he had scored six goals. David Luiz, the defender on the Brazilian side, walked over to him and called on the crowd to acknowledge him. Luiz helped to make sure Rodriguez’s excellent performance would be recognized by the crowd and both teams alike, contributing to a far brighter end to Rodriguez’s story.

3. Lutz Long Makes History with Jesse Owens

The 1936 Summer Olympic Games in Berlin were marred by controversy. Jesse Owens, a top African-American athlete, was on hand to represent the U.S. in the long jump – despite the racist policies of the growing Nazi Party in Germany. During the qualifying match for the long jump, German competitor Lutz Long preceded Owens and set an Olympic record. Owens fought hard but fouled twice – one more and he would be out of the running. Long advised Owens on how to improve his form, helping him advance. Owens won the gold medal in the Olympic event.

4. John Landy Becomes Australian for Sportsmanship

John Landy of Australia is known as the second man to ever break the 4-minute mile. It was an achievement most people believed was not possible, but he did it only 46 days after Englishman Roger Bannister. During the 1956 Australian National Championships, Landy was in the midst of a race when a competitor, 19-year old Ron Clarke, fell before him. Landy initially jumped over Clarke but scraped him with his cleats in the try. Landy stopped to make sure Clarke was okay before rejoining the race – and still managed to finish first, in 4 minutes, 4 seconds.

5. Jack Niklaus at the 1969 Ryder Cup

Jack Niklaus was known as a personable and professional figure throughout his golf career. In 1969, playing in Southport, England, he was tied with Englishman Tony Jacklin on the 18th hole. In his first-ever Ryder Cup, Niklaus sank his four-foot putt to make par. Before his rival could see about his own putt, Niklaus picked up the other’s ball marker, conceding the putt. By doing so, Nicklaus ensured the competition would end in a tie. Nothing like that had happened in the 42-year history of the Ryder Cup. As previous winners, the U.S. team maintained the cup.

6. FIFA’s Fair Play Award of 2001 in the English Premier League

It’s not all the time that acts of sportsmanship get recognized with awards – sometimes, though, there’s a good reason. In a “forgettable” English Premier League game between Everton and West Ham, the teams were fighting hard in extra time until Everton goalkeeper Paul Gerrard hurt his knee. It was unclear how serious the injury was, but Gerrard was lying on the field in obvious pain. As play continued, West Ham’s Paolo di Canio caught a pass so there would be sufficient time for Gerrard to receive treatment. Di Canio’s selflessness may have cost his team an easy goal, but it provoked a standing ovation from the crowd – and he was honored by FIFA.

7. Olympic Runner Encouraged by Rival in Crucial Race

Near the end of a race in December 2012, Spanish runner Ivan Fernandez Anaya was giving a respectable performance, with second place in sight. Ahead of him, Abel Mutai of Kenya was just a few feet from the finish line. But Mutai stopped, believing he had reached the end of the race. Anaya closed the gap but didn’t overtake Mutai. Instead, he guided the other racer to the finish line and hung back while Mutai crossed. Explaining himself afterward, Anaya said that he could never have caught up if not for Mutai’s oversight.

8. English Sailor Pete Goss Responds to Mayday in the Midst of a Race

Not every sport gives athletes the chance to interact with the outside world during play. For Pete Goss, it made all the difference. It was Christmas Day, 1996, and Goss was in the middle of the Vendee Globe yacht race – a competition that sent racers all around the world. It looked like an ordinary day of racing until Goss received a mayday from competitor Raphael Dinelli. Dinelli, a Frenchman, had wrecked during a storm in the Southern Ocean. Goss detoured from the race to mount a rescue effort, sailing into hurricane-force winds in the process.

9. Shawn Crawford Gives Silver Medal Away

In the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, sprinter Shawn Crawford was representing the U.S. in the 200-meter sprint. He finished with a solid fourth place, but that wasn’t the end of it. Soon, he learned that the second- and third-place finishers had both been disqualified. The reason? Stepping on the lines during the race. A few days later, the player who had been in a position to receive the silver medal did so – from Crawford. Crawford reportedly expressed his belief that the original rankings should have stood.

10. Derek Jeter’s Final Game at Fenway Park

As Derek Jeter was preparing to end his professional baseball career, he could have called it good with his final game at Yankee Stadium. There, he pulled a single at the bottom of the ninth to turn things around for the Yankees. But, instead, he went on to play one more Major League game – in Boston. But that wasn’t all. Following the game, Jeter personally said goodbye to every Red Sox player. Touched by his gesture, the Sox brought out many of their other stars and Hall of Famers to make sure Jeter’s farewell was fully enjoyed by all.

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Ohio University’s Online Master of Athletic Administration program specializes in developing interscholastic Athletic Directors, building on the students’ passion for serving young student-athletes and running a highly-successful athletic department. Ohio University is a pioneer in sports education. By establishing the first academic program in the field of sports administration, this online program is recognized today as the premier professional training program for candidates seeking careers in the sports industry.


Global News, “Athletes helping rival athletes: 5 examples of true sportsmanship”
Mental Floss, “10 Acts of Good Sportsmanship”
Sports Illustrated Kids, “Five Great Moments of Sportsmanship in 2014”