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Original Issue

The World's Fairest

The International Fair Play trophy honors good sportsmanship

At the 1964Innsbruck Winter Olympics, Italian bobsledder Eugenio Monti and his partner,Sergio Siorpaes, led the field after their second run, a course record, in thetwo-man event. The only competitors given a chance of beating the Italians werethe British team of Tony Nash and Robin Dixon. But after their second run Nashand Dixon discovered that an axle bolt, a critical piece of hardware, hadsnapped off their sled.

Waiting at thebottom of the course, Monti heard of the Brits' bad luck and knew that thenearest replacement was in the Olympic Village, miles away. He detached theaxle bolt from his and Siorpaes's sled and sent it up to Nash and Dixon, whofixed their sled, had a superb second run and ultimately won the gold medal.For his act of sportsmanship Monti won the first Pierre de CoubertinInternational Fair Play Trophy, named for the founder of the modern OlympicGames.

"It is veryimportant to win, of course, though it is equally important to win in a properway," says Janusz Piewcewicz, secretary general of the Paris-basedInternational Committee for Fair Play (CIFP), the group that awards the trophy."But if you take a risk to lose even though you have a chance to win, youbecome extraordinary—you become what we call in France 'a knight of fair play.'"

High schoolbasketball coach Cleveland Stroud became such a knight in 1987. About a monthafter his Rockdale County High Bulldogs won the Georgia state championship,Stroud discovered that a player who had been on the floor for just 45 secondsin one game was academically ineligible to play. Stroud returned thechampionship trophy and forfeited the title. "I called my playerstogether," he says, "and told them that in a few years people wouldforget the score, and even who won, but they wouldn't forget what you're madeof." Stroud's actions earned him the 1987 Fair Play trophy.

The executivecouncil of CIFP chooses the winner from among the 35 or 40 nominations itreceives each year. The group outlines its ideals in a 31-page booklet,Declaration on Fair Play, which delineates the responsibilities not only ofathletes but also of coaches, parents, teachers, sports organizations, sportsdoctors, referees, public officials, journalists and spectators. According tothe booklet, one of the organization's goals is to promote internationalunderstanding. Therefore the 1972 trophy was given to Stan Smith for averting"a major incident which could have brought discredit on tennis andundermined goodwill between the competing nations."

"It revolvedaround a Davis Cup match in Romania," says Smith, who was a member of the1972 U.S. team that played the Romanians in Bucharest. "We were ahead twoto one, and I was playing Ion Tiriac, the old king of Romanian tennis, who wasbeing dethroned by Ilie Nastase. It was Tiriac's last stand in a way. This wasjust after the Munich Olympics in which the Israeli athletes had been killed,so there was quite a bit of tension in the air since we had two Jewish players,Harold Soloman and Brian Gottfried. We had very tight security and about 100military guys with machine guns.

"Tiriac wonthe first set, but I won the next two in spite of some flagrant calls. Heseemed to have control of all the linesmen, and I nearly lost my composureseveral times. He won the fourth set, and the crowd was going crazy, and he wasgetting pretty cocky. But I served an ace on the first point of the fifth setand won the set 6-0. The match was televised throughout Europe; I think that'swhy they gave me the award."

Indeed, though theaward carries great prestige in Europe (the awards ceremony, which takes placein Paris in October, is televised in Europe), it hasn't received much publicityhere. Andras Toro, a four-time Olympic canoer and kayaker and former secretaryof the U.S. Olympic Committee who now sits on the executive council of CIFP,sees another way to promote the ideals of fair play in the U.S. He points outthat while fair play is in short supply when there are great amounts of moneyto be made, a fair play trophy for professional sports in the U.S. would be aperfect avenue to advance the cause.

"We couldstart with baseball," says Toro, "and the trophy could be presentedbefore the All-Star Game. That way it would penetrate into the fiber ofprofessional sports in this country—to the benefit of all, because it wouldtrickle down to amateur and high school sports. There would be a visibleclement out there saying, Hey, guys, fair play is important."

Jay Feldman, whowrites for magazines and television, lives in Davis, Calif.