Award for Olympic sportsmanship in honour of Cecil Healy
29 August 2018
AOC: In marking today’s 100th anniversary of the death of Olympic gold medallist Cecil Healy, the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) is moving to create an award for Olympians who display exceptional sportsmanship and exemplify the Olympic values.
The champion swimmer became the only Australian Olympic gold medallist to die in combat, when he was gunned down at the Somme in France on August 29th, 1918.
This week, the French Municipality of Assevillers will honour 2nd Lt Cecil Healy and the other Australian soldiers who came to liberate the villages of that area with a special ceremony.
His death was keenly felt in the Olympic movement, not only because of his exceptional qualities as a freestyle swimmer, but particularly for the extraordinary act of sportsmanship he displayed at the 1912 Stockholm Olympics Games.
Cecil Healy denied himself a certain gold medal by insisting the race favourite Duke Kahanamoku be allowed to compete in the 100 metres freestyle final despite the American champion missing his semi-final due to an apparent mix up.
Healy’s stance led to officials holding a special semi-final, which included the American, who went on to win the final with Cecil Healy picking up the silver.
Healy felt that without the American in the race, any gold medal would be tarnished.
The Executive of the AOC will meet tomorrow to determine the details and criteria for a memorial award to be bestowed on Olympians who display exceptional sportsmanship at a Games and who uphold Olympic values.
AOC President John Coates AC said the example of Cecil Healy defines the Olympic spirit.
“It’s appropriate that 100 years since Cecil was killed that we perpetuate the great example he set. His family is gathering in France this weekend for the special homage to Cecil at the war cemetery at Assevillers.
“That’s a wonderful gesture from the French and we believe as Australians there’s a great benefit in understanding and celebrating the values that Cecil held that led to that incredible gesture in 1912. What an example he set for us all."
While the Award will be considered after each Olympic Games it will only be presented if an athlete has shown exceptional sportsmanship.