A noble spirit trumps a win

January 19, 2018

Euroa Christian Fellowship's George Deeble.

As much as I enjoy watching champion sportspeople in action, I equally enjoy the stories behind the scenes.

These are generally unheralded, but nevertheless are often the most inspiring.

Such was the story of Henry Pearce, the Australian who was competing in the single scull rowing in the 1928 Olympic Games.

He was leading the race when a mother duck and her string of ducklings came into view ahead.

He and the ducks were on a collision course and he figured his oar would cut the string in half and kill a number of the ducklings in the process.

So he pulled his oars. When the ducks passed, Pearce again bent his back for the task. There’s a happy ending to the story. Pearce won.

Usually, however, acts of sportsmanship end in defeat.

Leo Durocher once said, ‘‘Nice guys finish last’’.

About 20 years ago in the marathon tandem kayak racing event at the world championships in Copenhagen, Danish competitors were leading when the rudder was damaged.

British paddlers, who were in second place, stopped to help the Danes fix it.

The Danes went on to defeat the British by one second in a race that lasted more than three hours.

But there is also a happy ending to this story, too.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the British kayakers won what many people regard as the highest honour in sports.

They became the winner of the Pierre de Coubertin International Fair Play Trophy.

The trophy is named after the founder of the modern Olympic Games and has been awarded for the past 38 years to sportspeople who have demonstrated nobility of spirit.

It is big news in Europe but, sadly, receives little publicity in this country.

In the past, the trophy has gone to a Hungarian tennis player who pleaded with officials to give his opponent more time to recover from a cramp.

Another was given to a United States basketball coach who forfeited a game after he found out one of his key players was scholastically ineligible.

It is a fascinating exercise to read the stories of the winners of this award, most of whom we have never heard of because they never made it to the champions platform.

However, I am confident they all slept well at night.

They experienced peace that comes from knowing they had done the right thing in spite of the outcome.

They knew the value of a good conscience.

The Bible encourages us to ‘‘hold on to the faith and a good conscience’’.

Do this and we will ultimately experience a reward far superior to any sporting trophy.

- George Deeble, Euroa Christian Fellowship

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