The Olympic Games are about more than victory. More than medals. More than record-setting performances.
At their core they are also about the Olympic values of excellence, friendship and respect. And nobody has epitomised these values more so far at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games than US biathletes Lanny and Tracy Barnes, Canadian cross-country ski coach Justin Wadsworth and the Russian cross-country ski team.
The International Fair Play Committee (CIFP) presented them with Fair Play awards today at the USA House inside the Olympic Park for three separate acts of selflessness.
The Barnes’ story is one of ultimate sacrifice. Tracy qualified for the United States to compete in biathlon at Sochi 2014 but her sister, who was ill at the final qualifying race in Italy and was unable to finish as a result, fell agonisingly short of booking her own ticket to Russia. Conceding that her twin had been in better form throughout the season, Tracy graciously gave her spot on the team to Lanny, who competed last week in the women’s 15km individual.
“This is incredibly humbling,” said Tracy. “I think sportsmanship, which this award embraces, is a way for people to go beyond the playing field, or the ski course, and recognise that there is more to sport than just a win. Sportsmanship is about creating champions both on and off the playing field. And while I am not a champion in my sport, I strive to be a good person and do the right thing.
“Sometimes in sport there is winning and there is losing. And sometimes you have to lose in order to win. Or at least sacrifice the win. While I didn’t compete in the Olympics here, I feel I have won.”
Canadian Justin Wadsworth was also feted for his unselfish assistance of Russian skier Anton Gafarov, who was struggling to finish the semi-finals of the men’s sprint free event due to a broken ski. Wadsworth leapt to the athlete’s side, helping to remove the broken ski and replacing it with a spare that he had at hand for members of his own team. “I wanted him to have dignity as he crossed the finish line,” Wadsworth was quoted as saying at the time.
True to form, Wadsworth was busy preparing his skiers for competition and was not able to receive his trophy in person. Accepting the award on his behalf was his wife, IOC member and two-time Canadian Olympic medallist Beckie Scott.
A Fair Play diploma was presented to the Russian cross-country ski team and received by Russian Fair Play Committee President Nikolai Dolgopolov. The Russians came to the assistance of their German counterparts after it was learned that the visiting team’s drilling machines – equipment that is absolutely essential to compete – were broken. The head of the Russian team immediately gave the German technicians full access to his equipment, allowing the Germans to prepare their skis and compete.
“This is a great honour for us,” Dolgopolov said. “I spoke with the Chef de Mission of the Russian team and he told me that he didn’t hesitate for a moment to help. Some people say that at such big events as the Olympic Games examples of fair play are rare. At the Sochi Olympic Games we have seen that this is not the case.”
The trophies were presented by CIFP President Jeno Kamuti and master of ceremonies CIFP Secretary General Sunil Sabharwal.