Winning a gold medal at the Olympics is great. But there is something that sparkles better than a gold medal. And that’s fair play and sportsmanship. One such remarkable story is from the Turin Winter Olympics 2006.
The Cross-country skiing race at the Olympics was a highly contested game. There is very little to choose between Canada, Finland, Sweden and Norway. All of them were hot contenders for the gold medal. It was one of the most anticipated races.
As the race began, Sara Renner of the Canadian team took the lead. At the third lap of the six-lap race, disaster stuck for her. Her ski pole broke. She could hardly generate the thrust needed to push through the snow and slowly began to lose momentum. The rest of the contenders began to overtake her one by one. By now, she had slipped from pole position to fourth place.
One man rushed towards her and handed over a spare ski pole to Sara. This enabled her to power through and finish second, winning a silver medal for Canada. And who is that man? It’s the Norwegian Skiing team head coach, Bjørnar Håkensmoen. The sad irony is that thanks to his generosity, his own team was pushed outside of the medal position, coming in fourth.
A journalist asked the head coach that had he not helped, Norway would have won a medal. Bjørnar Håkensmoen’s answer? “If you win but don’t help somebody when you should have, what win is that?”
That answer epitomizes the Olympic spirit. He continued, “The Olympic spirit is the way we try to follow. Without that, we are in big trouble. Every skier, every staff member from Norway follows that.”
This act of sportsmanship captured the imagination of the World. Canadians went wild, praising his sportsmanship, inviting him and his family for a long vacation in Canada, and even sending him enormous quantities of maple syrup. The Norwegian embassy in Canada received over 600 letters, telephone calls and e-mails of thanks.
While Bjørnar’s act of kindness might have cost his country a medal, he helped it earn the respect of the world making every Norwegian proud.