Of course, some might say, it's one thing to show true sportsmanship when one wins but quite another when one loses -- which leads me to this story with a gold medal attitude.
Justin Wadsworth, Canadian cross-country skiing coach and three-time Olympic champion himself, was dejected and disheartened after all his athletes were defeated early in Olympic competition. But he still mustered up enough gumption to mosey over to the finish line and watch the end of the men's sprint free semifinals, according to the Toronto Star.
He noticed Russian skier Anton Gafarov stumbling over the slope on the horizon. He had crashed -- twice -- broken a ski and struggled along with a strip of the material P-Tex, taken from the bottom of his ski, wrapped around his foot like barbed wire bound around a caught horse's hoof.
He was already three minutes behind the leaders. He merely was dragging himself through the last couple of hundred meters of the 1.7-kilometer race to the finish line.
Wadsworth looked around the crowd, and everyone was just staring at the once favored Russian skier gimping down a hill he once glided down. Even his own Russian coaches gazed at him like deer in the headlights of an oncoming car.
According to the Star, Wadsworth later explained: "It was like watching an animal stuck in a trap. You can't just sit there and do nothing about it."
So he ran onto the course with a spare ski he had carried over for Canadian racer Alex Harvey. Gafarov knew someone was rushing him a replacement ski, but he didn't recognize the face. As Wadsworth knelt to help him, no words were exchanged, for neither man knew the other's language, but the random act of kindness said everything. After a nod of thanks, Gafarov fled off to finish his race.
And Wadsworth's only commentary about the entire incident and why he had helped a rival competitor was this: "I wanted him to have dignity as he crossed the finish line."
The video of Wadsworth jumping to help Gafarov is on YouTube, titled "Sochi 2014: Anton Gafarov and Justin Wadsworth."
When a champion waits to congratulate a last-place wounded competitor, it shows Olympic sportsmanship. But when a champion bends down on his knees to pick up and serve one who is his rival, it demonstrates Olympic gold.
As inspiring as these Olympic stories are, however, they shouldn't come as a shock. But the fact is, in a world where integrity and servanthood take second place to image and superiority, tales of decency stand out like the Olympic torch in the night sky. And they also remind us of a timeless truth: We all need to have victorious values. Morals before medals, others before ourselves. Our character should be solid gold, not merely gold-plated. The golden rule should be our gold standard. And sportsmanship and kindness should always trump winning or seeing our photo on a box of Wheaties.
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