Sports is at its best when it is played fairly and where respect is shown to the opposition. No, it is always not about winning. Often, what we most remember above the epic triumphs and the devastating losses are small wonders of sportsmanship that fetches up by surprise. From enriching lives to moments of heartwarming compassion, The Bridge has listed down the top ten acts of sportsmanship that will hit you in the feels -- and they all deserve to be applauded.
#10 Win It As You Lose it
Ace Indian tennis star Sania Mirza won the Brisbane International women's doubles title pairing up with American Bethanie Mattek-Sands in January 2017, only to have ended up losing the World No. 1 crown. The trophy ended her 91-week reign as the World No. 1 doubles player according to the WTA rankings, as replaced by Bethanie. During the post-match speech, an emotional Sania said, “I feel like I'm handing over Miss World No 1 crown.” The top-seeded Indo-American pair scraped to an impressive 6-2, 6-3 victory against the second-seeded Russian duo of Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina in the final.
#9 Sportsmanship prevail, thanks to MS
The third day of the second Test between India and England at Trent Bridge in 2011 saw a ‘bizarre’ run-out of the centurion Ian Bell who was batting on 137. Luckily for Ian Bell, his bizarre run-out happened at the stroke of tea that gave time for his side to impress upon the Indian captain Dhoni to withdraw the appeal. India’s Praveen Kumar initially fumbled with the ball in the deep square leg but succeeded in stopping the ball from going over the fence. Seeing which, Bell joined Eoin Morgan to walk back to the pavilion for tea. But the umpire had still not called over a tea-break. Kumar threw the ball to the striker's end and Abhinav Mukund effected a quick run-out. Bell was given run-out after replays showed that Praveen Kumar had kept the ball within the playing area. But Bell resumed his innings, much to the surprise of the audience, after Dhoni withdrew the appeal over tea.
#8 Helping An Injured!
In January this year, Saina Nehwal became the first Indian woman badminton player to lift the Indonesia Masters title. Her opponent Carolina Marin retired with an injury while attempting a smash shot. The reigning world and Olympic champion Marin limped off the court and was in tears, unable to bear the pain. Saina was not happy with the manner of triumph as Marin withdrew from the game due to a knee injury. Saina then shared pictures from the finals with a message for Marin to make a quick recovery.
#7 'If You're Happy And You Know It, Shout Hockey!'
Indian women’s hockey team registered a comfortable 11-0 victory against the much lower-ranked Fiji in Hiroshima in the FIH Women’s Series Finals in July this year. In a truly heartwarming gesture, members of both the Fiji and Indian teams formed a circle and hand-in-hand sang a rendition of 'If you're happy and you know it clap your hands' song. The players then sang, ‘If you're happy and you know it, shout hockey’ with the clip being shared on social media that generated a lot of engagement.
#6 Don't Worry Buddy, BFC Is There!
After Minerva Punjab (known as Punjab FC) refused to play a match in the strife-torn state, citing security reasons in the wake of the deadly Pulwama terror attack earlier this year, Bengaluru FC offered to play an exhibition match against Real Kashmir in Srinagar. In response to the gesture, Real Kashmir thanked the ISL outfit and invited them in March for a friendly fixture, assuring the guests ‘the most electric football atmosphere’.
#5 Honesty Is The Best Policy
Sportsmanship is just about doing what is right. Birendra Lakra of the Indian hockey team did just that against Pakistan in the Asian Champions Trophy final on October 31, 2016. In the final quarter, India was leading 3-2, when the ball touched Lakra's leg prompting the Pakistanis to attempt an appeal for a penalty corner. But since the referee was not sure, Pakistan had to go for the final referral.
Lakra then walked up to the referee and indicated that the ball had indeed touched his leg and requested him not to let Pakistan use up their last referral. The Pakistan side hailed Lakra for his honesty and patted him on the back. They failed to score and India held on to the lead to clinch the title even after five years. This highlights how sport can be used as a catalyst for re-integration between two teams, who have a complex and largely hostile history.
#4 A Friend In Deed Is A Friend Indeed
Not everything in sports about winning. Days after India beat Iran to win their third successive Kabaddi World Cup title, a poignant tale from the 2014 Incheon Asian Games resurfaced to surprise. However, the match will be remembered for the Indian team's brilliant gesture towards their opponents. While in the second half, an Iranian raider, clad in hijab, found herself tackle hard by the Indians, and in the process, displaced. Instead of pursuing the game, the Indian team stopped the proceedings to help their opponent. They circled her and allowed her to put it back on as the match officials allowed the match to be disrupted.
#3 'Mubarak Ho', Arshad
Hostility aside, in a heartwarming gesture, the Athletics Federation of India on December 7, congratulated Pakistan’s star javelin thrower Arshad Nadeem who clinched the gold medal at the South Asian Games with a throw of 86.29 metres in the men’s final event of the javelin throw. Nadeem also becomes the first Pakistani athlete in decades to earn direct qualification at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
#2 'Jeet Lo Haar Ke'
At Rio 2016, the World No. 10 Sindhu fell just short of beating the eventual champion Carolina Marin of Spain in a classic encounter, despite having taken the first game, but the gesture shown by the Indian after the match proves how worthy she is of all the adulation that has been heaped on her. She reflected on the loss by sitting on the court for a moment and lifted Marin on her feet. The two of them then locked in an embrace and as Sindhu parted from Marin, she saw her vanquisher’s racquet lying on the ground, where Marin had flung it in her excitement. Sindhu picked it up, and carefully laid it by the side of the court, near where Marin’s bag was placed.
#1 No Gold, So What?
Yogeshwar Dutt had displayed heartwarming sportsmanship and respect for his deceased opponent when he didn’t get his bronze medal from the London Olympics upgraded to gold. While the news was a bit of a disappointment for a country where Olympic medals are a premium and gold medals a rarity, the wrestler did not feel he lost out in the confusing episode surrounding retrospective dope tests and medal upgrades that have played out over the past two weeks.
The confirmation by wrestling’s global body put to rest speculation over the possibility of a double upgrade for Dutt, who is likely to be given the silver medal after Russian Besik Kudukhov, who died in a car crash in 2013, was reported to have tested positive for a banned substance. Although it wasn’t clear if he didn’t want to win gold or silver at the Games, Dutt was more relieved than sad to hear that his fellow wrestler has been cleared of wrongdoing.