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August 19, 2021

Dara Torres, Usain Bolt Offer Different Lessons in Sportsmanship — and Our Kids are Watching

It's not hard to be blown away by what U.S. swimmer Dara Torres and Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt have accomplished in these Olympics.

Twenty-one-year-old Bolt, the world record holder in the 100-meter sprint, ran it in an amazing 9.69 seconds on Saturday, beating his own record.

And Torres (a 41-year-old mom!) won two silver medals in swimming — within 35 minutes — this weekend.

But in my mind, these two incredibly talented athletes left quite a different impression.

Swimmers have to be all about focus before a race — especially in the 50-meter freestyle, where there just isn't enough time to make up for even a slight mistake or loss of focus. So that makes what Torres did seem so unexpected.

As the eight swimmers for Torres' semifinal headed out to the blocks, Sweden's Therese Alshammar's suit ripped. At first Torres tried to help her fix it, but when it became clear that Alshammar's suit was too torn to be saved, Torres walked over to the side of the pool to talk with an official to make sure that they didn't start the race until Alshammar had changed into a new suit. Surrounded by swimmers half her age, Torres seemed like the mom of the group, making sure everyone was taken care of.

Alshammar made it back to the blocks in her new suit. Torres re-focused and then beat the rest of the field, getting off to the best start on her way to recording the best time of anyone in the semifinals.

Talk about sportsmanship. I was blown away — and so glad that my 12-year-old son, Matt, was able to see Torres do that.

Bolt, on the other hand, easily won the 100-meter-dash gold medal this weekend, blowing away the field for the first 80 meters or so before celebrating, coasting and showboating his way across the finish line, still setting a world record of 9.69 seconds but probably costing himself at least a tenth of a second with his finish.

I was disgusted by his showboating. To start pounding your chest and looking at your opponents — with 10 meters to go at the Olympics — seems like the height of arrogance and bad sportsmanship. And Matt saw that, too.

Two athletes, both with incredible talent and drive — and both presenting different examples of sportsmanship for the children of the world to witness.


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