Katie Nageotte and Holly Bradshaw have been named winners of the International Fair Play Committee’s (CIFP) Fair Play Award as part of the World Athletics Awards 2022.
In August, World Athletics invited fans to take to social media to cast their vote for the moment that best exemplified fair play during the World Athletics Championships Oregon22. Following six days of voting, the social media scores were combined with jury votes to determine three finalists, before Nageotte and Bradshaw were selected as the winners.
Traditionally the Fair Play Award recognises moments that happen during competition, but this time the honour highlights an act that went beyond the field of play.
In Oregon, Bradshaw injured herself after her pole snapped during the pole vault warm-up session. Her fellow competitor Nageotte immediately went over to support her. Knowing she would no longer be able to contend for a place in the final, Bradshaw withdrew from the competition, thus allowing another athlete to advance. Bradshaw received a lot of abuse on social media for withdrawing, but Nageotte again offered support by taking to Twitter in defence of her competitor.
“The reason I wanted to address those negative comments online is first of all, Holly is the toughest athlete I’ve possibly ever met. For her to pull out of a competition, especially a World Championships, no one would ever just do that,” said Nageotte.
“It’s also ignorance around our sport. It’s kind of insulting to the sport as a whole when people say: ‘oh she only fell 2ft, she’s really milking it’. When you break a pole, it would be like taking a metal baseball bat and hitting it against a metal pole as hard as you can. I’ve seen so many injuries from it, so if nothing else, I want to teach people about the sport.”
Bradshaw added: “No one should be expected to understand (everything about the pole vault) but it’s just having that realisation that what you are saying at home and posting online really does affect a person. Putting it online and in the domain, does so much damage. For Katie to stand up and speak out about it, is very important.”
Secretary General of CIFP Sunil Sabharwal was also in Oregon during the World Championships. Giving recognition to the way the Fair Play Award has evolved and the winning moment in 2022, he said: “When we look for an act of fair play, we are looking for an act where someone goes beyond the call of duty, at times putting themselves at risk. Here what we had was a series of events.
“If you think about sports media or sports history, this kind of social media hate is a new phenomenon and the committee and the jury felt that this unwanted, unnecessary and undesired criticism by people who really don’t know what is going on, needs to be called out. We were unanimous in supporting this.”
On the significance of this recognition, Nageotte added: “This award is so important for the next generation because I have always wanted to show that you can be a fierce competitor and phenomenal at what you do and still be a good person. It’s more important for me to be remembered as a decent human being than a good athlete and if I can have both of those, then that’s great.
“I am happy that I could be a part of this, to show people that you can be a good person and that kindness is what we need more of going forward in this world. If I could show a little bit of that I’m really happy, and to share it with Holly is pretty awesome.”
The CIFP was established more than 50 years ago to promote the principles of fair play in sport: fair competition, respect, friendship, team spirit, equality and sport without doping. It honours those who respect the written and unwritten rules of sport, which include integrity, solidarity, tolerance, care, excellence and joy, and who set an example for others, on and off the field. Related to the World Championships alone, 10 awards have been handed out since 2003.
The announcement of the 2022 Fair Play Award comes on the same day as the release of an online abuse study conducted by World Athletics during the World Athletics Championships Oregon22. In line with its commitment to safeguarding on and off the field of play, World Athletics organised the study to identify and address abusive comments sent to athletes and will continue conducting research in this area to develop more effective ways to protect athletes from abuse.
Frederick Marfo is a sportswriter and social worker well known for his advocacy for equal chances and rights for all athletes, especially those with disabilities.