Thursday, April 26, 2007

Striving to be a Gentleman, Professional and Sportsman

The events of last week's National Interschool Cross-Country gave us all a bitter pill to swallow. It wasn't just the fact that for the first time in 19 years, we had failed to capture either the B or C Div Boys title. As we have often said, winning and losing is part of the game, and there is no shame- I repeat, no shame, in having lost to a better player or better runner.

But something nagged at the back of my mind when we saw some of the results after the race and for a while we couldn't put our finger on it.
During the B-Div Boys, we all saw Ashraf Kumar from 4F cross the finishing line ahead of his competitor, we were all cheering for him as this placed him, our Second Runner, 6th in terms of overall position.
However, with the fall of Thomas, our third runner, we knew that our shot at the championship was not to be.
So after the race, we didn't realise that Ashraf was listed as 7th, NOT 6th.

Apparently, the electronic tagging system had captured the other runner first. This puzzled us as we had all seen Ashraf cross the line ahead and even Ashraf confirmed it. We wondered whether it was the case that both runners had come in so close together that it would be hard to distinguish 6th and 7th placing; however, when we saw a clip of the actual finishing, it was without a doubt that Ashraf finished in 6th place.


The race is over and as Gentlemen, we must acknowledge that we lost to a better team.
However, receiving the National Colours Award is not about winning or losing, it is an award given to deserving Sportmen that have played the game well and at the highest levels. The top 6 runners are eligible for the National Colours Award and the technical glitch that resulted in the switch of placing between Ashraf and the other competing runner may mean that Ashraf does not get his Colours Award.
We're not quibbling about timing between 2 athletes that came in neck to neck, we are looking at a clear positional difference between 2 athletes.

Now being Gentlemen and Sportsmen, we must also aim to be Professional.
It is important in running any sporting event that the criteria for competition are fair and reliable; otherwise there is no accurate benchmark for performance and competition becomes meaningless.

Year after year, the use of electronic tagging system has given rise to several incidents like this- in past years, some runners who completed the race were not captured by the system, thereby forfeiting their positions. As teachers and coaches, we are not even sure of whether there is a back-up system to adjudicate this issue- we all saw a video camera at the finishing line but no one was manning it this year. What if the tagging system malfunctions and does not capture the runners- unlike 2.4 for NAPFA, we cannot do a re-run!

So the question I posing now to all of us is this:
In a nation and educational landscape that is branded for its drive towards excellence, how can we short-change our athletes by telling them that:

Their winning and losing is not based on their performance during the race but on the performance and integrity of the measuring mechanisms used?

That crossing the 'finishing line' isn't really cross the finishing line; it depends on WHEN the tracking system picks you up.

True, competition is not all about winning and losing. For any race, there will be a winner and loser but all are champions as long as they have performed to the best of their limits and have a fair indication of their success in the race.

But how can a race be meaningful if it measures the performance of its competitors based using a syetem that is so easily affected by so many variables- that race makes the competitive spirit secondary to the arbitrary nature of its measuring instruments.

Only when we can have fair and reliable methods of competition can we talk about instilling values through competition because there is no sense telling our athletes to 'Win with humility and lose with pride' if winning and losing is dictated by luck.

1 comment:

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