Olympian Acts of Kindness

The 2014 Winter Olympics was held in Sochi, Russia, from 7–23 February 2014. A total of 98 events in 15 winter sport disciplines were held during the Games. I received several emails from a Canadian friend about acts of kindness that took place at the games.

In the men’s 1,000-metre race, Canada’s top long-track speed skater Denny Morrison had forfeited his chance to race in the finals when he failed during the qualifier. His younger and less experienced team-mate Gilmore Junio had qualified.

In a gracious and generous act of sportsmanship and team-spirit, Junio decided to yield his rightful place to Morrison. He said, “How Denny is skating now, I believe it’s in the best interest of the team if he races…” 

“This is an amazing gesture and I’m ready to make the most of this opportunity”, said Morrison, who promptly twitted publicly to thank his team mate.

Long track speedskaters Denny Morrison, right, and Gilmore Junio arrive
home from the Sochi Olympics in Calgary.

In another event, the Canadian cross-country ski coach Justin Wadsworth, a three-time Olympian, was crestfallen as he wandered over to the finish line to watch the end of the. semifinal in the men’s free sprint. The Canadians were all eliminated early. As he stood there, surrounded by other officials, he spotted Russian Anton Gafarov, an early medal favourite, coming over a rise. Gafarov.

He had crashed on a quick downhill corner and broken a ski. Then he had crashed again. A long, thin layer of P-Tex had been skinned off his ski and he was struggling miserably, ignominiously dragging himself to the finish.

The officials, including some Russian coaches just stood there and stared. “It was like watching an animal stuck in a trap. You can’t just sit there and do nothing about it,” Wadsworth said to himself.

Grabbing a spare ski he had brought for a Canadian racer, Wadsworth ran onto the track where Gafarov was dragging himself along. Kneeling beside him, Wadsworth pulled off the broken equipment and quickly replaced it. No words passed between them. Gafarov only nodded and promptly set off again to ski across the finishing line as a skier should.

Candian ski coach, Justin Wadsworth, came to the rescue of Russian skier,
Anton Gafarov Twitter.com

“I wanted him to have dignity as he crossed the finish line,” Wadsworth later said.

These two incidents poignantly illustrate what the Olympic spirit is about. It is about friendship. And friendship is nothing if not kind and gracious.

Renewed friendship: Australia’s Anna Meares and Victoria Pendleton put their
rivalry aside as Pendleton retires from the sport at London 2012 Olympics

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