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Sportsmanship: The True Essence of Sport

A jubilant Rafael Nadal received a rapturous ovation from the crowd after having defeated Juan Martin del Potro in a five-hour-long Wimbledon quarter-final match in 2018. The crowd was entertained with a scintillating display of tennis. Yet, what pleased the spectators most was the moment when Nadal crossed over the net to console a defeated del Potro, who was lying flat on the grass in despair.
Acknowledging your opponent’s effort, playing fair and losing with grace, that’s what sportsmanship is all about!
Competing for the championship, in 2017, five-time Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton pulled aside, allowing his team-mate, Valtteri Bottas, to inch ahead and claim the third spot. Hamilton, who said he would give the place back to teammate Bottas, should he fail in his pursuit of the Ferrari duo ahead of him, kept his word. He might have lost a few points but stood by his values and showed the world what true champions are made up of.
If high-octane competition is the cake for the spectators, then sportsmanship is the icing on that cake.
In the recently concluded US Open, Noami Osaka showed the world what humility and sportsmanship stand for. US tennis’ latest sensation, 15-year-old Coco Gauff, was reduced to tears after her defeat to world no. 4 Naomi Osaka. Before celebrating her victory, Osaka walked up to console a crying Gauff and appreciated her for the tennis she’d played that night. Naomi later hugged Gauff before both left the court with the crowd in the stadium delivering resounding applause to both the athletes. Gauff, in her post-match interview, said she couldn’t thank Osaka enough for the gesture and that they had become good friends after that moment.
A true sportsperson will celebrate their victory with humility and accept their defeat with grace. Take an example of any great player; they’ve been graceful in their defeat, but that does not stop them from trying again and craving the taste of success and whilst doing so they respect the sport, the circumstance and the opponent.
Sportsmanship could be many things like character, practice, appreciation and respect for the opponent, fair play, acknowledgement, but the biggest trait of a good sportsman is being humble in victory and graceful in defeat. In the 2016 Rio Olympic final, PV Sindhu lost to Spanish Badminton player Carolina Marin. Hopes of the entire nation were resting on Sindhu’s shoulders, but she went down along with her hopes of winning a gold medal. Yet, in that moment of heartbreak, Sindhu was gracious in defeat as she walked up to Marin, who lay on the floor soaking in the moment, and congratulated her on her victory. These moments are what make sports so special.
In the 2003 cricket ICC Cricket World Cup semi-final, Adam Gilchrist walked off even though he was declared not out by the on-field umpire. He had edged the ball while sweeping Aravinda De Silva but in those days, there was no review system in place. Yet, his conscious did not allow him to take advantage of the decision and hence he decided to walk away.
A few years later, Gilchrist admitted that an incident in his county playing days had left an impact on him when a similar incident happened, and he decided to carry on playing. At the end of the match, Gilchrist felt embarrassed to face the bowler who had dismissed him, but the umpire had ruled it not out.
Gilchrist’s showing of sportsmanship stemmed from the experience he had many years back. He learnt a lesson that fair play and character would always triumph over personal success. He recalled the incident felt like a dagger of guilt stuck in the heart, which was later removed when he righteously walked away against Sri Lanka in 2003.
In life, it is necessary that we learn from our previous mistakes to make tomorrow better. A true sportsman would certainly do that.
These traits of sportsmanship can be drawn into our daily lives. There are times when we are unsuccessful in reaching our full potential due to our own limitations but accepting that graciously gives us the strength to succeed. One should make efforts to cultivate the spirit of sportsmanship and go through life happily. Fair play, respect for discipline, recognition of the need for teamwork and cheerfulness even in the event of defeat are thus the dominant marks of a true sportsman both on and off the field.

Views of the author are personal and do not necessarily represent the website’s views.

The author, Sanjeev Anand, is Country Head – Commercial Banking and in-charge of Sports Vertical, IndusInd Bank and an avid sports enthusiast.

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The CSR Journal Team