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Top Five Greatest Acts of Sportsmanship

Many of us were moved earlier this week when we saw Alistair Brownlee carrying his exhausted younger brother, Jonny, through the last stretch at the World Triathlon Series and then throwing him over the finish line. It was an amazing example of not only brotherly love but also great sportsmanship as Alistair gave up second place for his little brother, who was set to win the competition before fatigue hit him.  It has inspired us to look at some of the other fantastic acts of sportsmanship over the years, so here are our top five for you…

Image courtesy of www2gallery via Flickr

Image courtesy of www2gallery via Flickr 

Luz Long and Jesse Owens (1936 Berlin Olympics)

The success of Jesse Owens, an African American and son of a sharecropper, during the 1936 Olympics was immensely significant during a time where, all around the world and in America especially, African Americans were seen as an inferior race.

What was even more momentous was the fact that these Games were based in Berlin. Jesse’s four Gold medals in 1936 defied all that Adolf Hitler was championing through an attempted showcase of Aryan superiority.

After winning his first Gold in the 100m, the next day Jesse was to compete in the qualification for the Long Jump final. After fouling on his first two jumps, Owens looked dangerously close to being knocked out of the competition. However, just before Owens’ final jump, German competitor Luz Long gave him some sound advice. Long told Owens to play safe by changing his mark to several inches before the take-off board and jump from there meaning he would place a score on the board and inevitably make it through to the final. Long was a typical German Aryan with blonde hair and blue eyes but did not himself believe in his superiority just because of the way he looked.

Owens did make it through to the final and subsequently won the competition beating Long’s jump to secure Gold for himself and Silver for the German. Long was the first to congratulate Owens.

Image courtesy of MimicPS via Flickr

Image courtesy of MimicPS via Flickr

Jack Nicklaus and Tony Jacklin (1969 Ryder Cup)

The Ryder Cup on the last day in 1969 was tied on 15.5 points for both teams and consequently went down to the last singles match between American superstar Jack Nicklaus and British hopeful Tony Jacklin. After holding a 50-foot eagle put on the 17th, Jacklin had levelled with Nicklaus to keep the game alive onto the last hole.

On the 18th, Nicklaus made his four-foot put to retain the Cup for the Americans. However, if Jacklin missed his two-foot put then the Americans would win the competition outright. During a moment of great sportsmanship, instead of forcing Jacklin to take the put, Nicklaus picked up the Englishman’s marker reportedly saying “I don’t think you would have missed that Tony…but I didn’t want to give you the chance”.

Nicklaus conceding the shot outraged the rest of the team and his captain as it prevented an American win, during a time of great dominance by the Americans in the competition, and resulted in the first Ryder Cup tie in history.

Image courtesy of SportsWebMedia via Flickr

Image courtesy of SportsWebMedia via Flickr

Andrew Flintoff and Brett Lee (2005 Ashes)

For English cricket fans, 2005 brings back some sweet memories. After a heavy defeat at Lords in the first test, England needed a good performance at Edgbaston to win the second test. At the start of the fourth day, England looked set for victory needing only two wickets to win with Australia needing 107 runs.

After remarkable batting from Australia throughout the day, England’s hope of victory starting to fade when the Aussie’s needed just three runs to ensure a 2-0 lead in the series. However, out of nowhere, Steven Harmison bowled a short ball dismissing Australian bowler Kasprowicz and winning the match for England by two runs.

Both English and Australian cricket fans were touched by Andrew Flintoff’s reaction to console Australian bowler Brett Lee, who was left on 43 not out, instead of celebrating with the rest of his teammates.

Image courtesy of Chris Mitchell via Twitter

Image courtesy of Chris Mitchell via Twitter

Paolo Di Canio (West Ham V Everton, 2000/2001)

Footballing bad boy Paolo Di Canio won a Fifa Fair Play Award for his act of sportsmanship in a match against Everton in the Premier League 2000/2001 Season.

Everton goalkeeper Paul Gerrard had fallen to the ground injured after a tackle, leaving an open goal for West Ham striker, Di Canio, to score in. However, instead of shooting, Di Canio caught the ball after a cross came towards him, in order to stop play so Gerrard could seek some medical help.

Di Canio received a standing ovation from the Everton fans for his gesture.

Image courtesy of David Trender via Twitter

Image courtesy of David Trender via Twitter

Lee Eun-Ju and Hong Un-jong (2016 Rio Olympics)

Although not an explicit act of sportsmanship, this picture between South and North Korean gymnastics at the recent Rio Olympics shows us how sport can bring the most unlikely groups of people together.

Outside of the sporting world, North and South Korea are technically still at war with each other with relations being particularly tense over the summer when North Korea launched missiles from Pyongyang.

However, first-time Olympian, Lee Eun-Ju and Hong Un-jong, who won Gold at Beijing in 2008, took a step away from tensions back home by simply taking a selfie together.

The picture was described by many as the most iconic of the Games.

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