Athletes helping rival athletes: 5 examples of true sportsmanship

Video:  Canadians are showing how strong they are in winter sports at this year’s Olympics, but they’re also demonstrating a strong show of sportsmanship. Paul Johnson reports.

TORONTO – The story of Canada’s head cross-country ski coach chipping in to help a Russian skier after he crashed in the semi-final of the men’s freestyle sprint went viral on Tuesday.

Justin Wadsworth gave Anton Gafarov a new ski after the Russian broke his own and was struggling to finish the race.

WATCH: Canada’s cross-country ski coach rushes to help Russia’s Anton Gafarov after fall

Gafarov was well behind the pack but still got to cross the finish line in front of his home fans.

Many people around the world praised Wadsworth for his sportsmanship.

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Wadsworth—a former U.S. cross-country ski team member—was born in California, and trained in Seattle.  He was named head coach of the Canadian cross-country ski team in 2010.

In the face of intense competition, we take a look at other recent examples of coaches and athletes whose kind gestures of helping rival athletes gained international recognition.

Norwegian coach lends ski pole to Canadians

Wadworth’s gesture could be the ultimate example of “paying it forward.”

During the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, Norwegian coach Bjornar Hakensmoen assisted Canadian cross-country skier Sara Renner when her pole broke during the third lap of a six-lap relay.

Hakensmoen gave Renner his pole and the Canadians finished the race to win silver. The Norwegians came in fourth.

Renner’s partner during the competition was Beckie Scott, who also happens to be Wadsworth’s wife.

Meghan Vogel helps rival runner cross the finish line

In July 2012, a high school runner competing in Division III 3200-metre finals in Columbus, Ohio, received overwhelming praise after she helped a struggling competitor finish the race.

Megan Vogel, 17, rushed to help Arden McMath after the sophomore collapsed 20 meteres from the end of the race. Vogel is seen steering McMath across the finish line in front where McMath then landed in 14th place while Vogel  finished off in the 15th spot.

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“Any girl on the track would have done the same for me,” Vogel told ESPN.

Spanish runner encourages Olympic bronze medallist across the finish line

During a running event in December 2012, Spanish runner Iván Fernández Anaya was trailing behind Olympic bronze medallist Abel Mutai of Kenya.

Mutai slowed down near the finish line believing he had won the race, despite still being several metres away from the tape.

Realizing Mutai’s confusion, Anaya, 24,  approached his competitor from behind and guided him to the actual finish line.

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While praised by many on social media, Anaya’s coach, however, wasn’t impressed.

“The gesture has made him a better person, but not a better athlete,” Martin Fiz told El Pais. “He has wasted an occasion. Winning always makes you more of an athlete. You have to go out to win.”

Missouri high school football teams collaborate on touchdown for player

In 2009, during a freshman football game between Benton and Maryville, Maryville was winning 46-0. Benton coach Dan McCamy wanted Matt Ziesel, a 15-year-old freshman with Down syndrome, to make his debut on the football field and approached the opposing team with a request.

“I’ve got a special situation,” McCamy said he remembers telling Maryville freshman defensive coach David McEnaney. “I know you guys want to get a shutout. Most teams would want a shutout, but in this situation I want to know if maybe you can let one of my guys run in for a touchdown.”

The coach of the opposing team agreed and the “Matt Play” proceeded with Ziesel scoring his first touchdown.

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Shawn Crawford’s Olympic medal giveaway 

During the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing, American sprinter Shawn Crawford finished in fourth place in the 200-metre sprint. Shortly after, news came that the second- and third-place runners were disqualified for stepping on the lines during their run, elevating Crawford from fourth place to second.

One week later, a package containing Crawford’s silver arrived to one of the disqualified players with the following note reportedly included:

“I know this won’t replace the moment, but I want you to have this, because I believe it’s rightfully yours. – Shawn Crawford.”

– With files from The Associated Press and Global News’ Brian McKechnie  

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