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Saturday, January 3, 2009

Fair Play is the name of a town in South Carolina...

... and it isn't very spectacular from I-85, just across the boarder from Georgia... lots of closed gas stations, restaurants and video game places... so I wasn't impressed.

BUT... fair play, when it involves personal character and ethics, is quite another matter.

In a Sports Illustrated year-end issue, a most outstanding story. I repeat it here because if you don't know about it, you should: At the Washington State 4A Track and Field championships in May, Nicole Cochran, a senior in Tacoma, won the 3,200-meter title by 3.05 seconds... or so she thought. A judge, however, ruled that she had stepped outside her lane and disqualified her.

Almost everyone, including her competitors, knew the judge was wrong. This was later verified by watching a replay of the race. The judge had erred... it was not Nicole but a team mate who stepped outside her lane.

But before that, the awards ceremony was held and the second-place runner, Andrea Nelson, a Spokane high school sophomore, was awarded the championship medal.

Then, a wonderful thing happened. Nelson took the championship medal, stepped off the awards platform, walked over to Cochran with the medal.

"It wasn't fair," said Nelson. "She deserved it. She totally crushed everybody." As she placed her medal around Cochran's neck, she told her, "It's your medal."

It didn't stop there. The number 3 finisher took off her medal and awarded it to Nelson. The number 4 gave hers to the number 3 finisher... and so down the line... every other of the eight medal winners in the event did the same... awarding her medal to the girl who finished ahead of her. Medal winner number 8 followed suit even though there was no one to give her a medal.

Cochran competed in two other events, and in the 800 where she finished 8th, she gave her medal to the 8th place runner who had relinquished hers in the 3200. "I didn't want her to go home from the meet her senior year without a medal," she said.

It took ten days after the event for the officials to correct themselves and name Cochran as winner of the 3200... something her competitors knew and did in an instant. I suppose it would have been embarrassing not to, under the circumstances. Sports gods, learn a lesson!

What class all of these women showed... and what an example to the spirit of fair play that the world should embrace much more often.

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