The Art Of Sportsmanship – 7 July 2012

We live in an unforgiving sporting age, it often feels that winning is all that matters. Success is lauded, failure derided. Fans are fickle, the press can be savage.  Players are heros one minute, villains the next. Trophies are demanded by glory seeking supporters, to the exclusion of all else. It is the world we live in.

But is that what sport is all about?

It often feels that way, but it is far more. Sport in many ways is just a microcosm of life, in which there are always going to be winners and losers.  It is often how we react to success and failure that determines our real worth and character. Can we hold our head up high in both victory and defeat? Can we behave in a manner which shows our human qualities and values, and respects our opponents, whatever the outcome? After all, whilst sport is big business, it is only a game, and that should never be forgotten.

Yesterday at Wimbledon, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga put in a herculian performance in the final two sets of his match against the local hero, Andy Murray. However, ultimately, despite causing Murray a real fright, he ended up as the loser. He must have been hurting deeply inside, his chance of a place in the Wimbledon final gone and that has to be every player’s dream. Yet Tsonga embraced Murray, he smiled and congratulated his opponent on a fine victory. He realised the enormity of the moment for Murray and he was not going to spoil it. It had been a spellbinding finale to a wonderful match and Tsonga had more than played his part, which he fully recognised. It was a rich moment in so many ways. Tsonga not only showed what a class and humble individual he is, but also reinforced and reminded us all what sport is really all about.

As Rudyard Kipling once famously wrote “if you can meet with Triumph and Disaster, and treat those two imposters just the same……. Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it, And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!” Murray was the victor, he is the ‘man’ and deservedly goes on to play in his first Wimbledon final, yet Tsonga is also the ‘man’ and should be equally celebrated for his wonderful act of sportsmanship in defeat. The sporting world feels a better place as a result.

7 July 2012

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