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  • Writer's pictureHugh Lawrence

Sport, political freedom and the cost

Why do we coach? Events in sport today present us with a teachable moment.

At the 1968 Mexico Olympics, 200m Gold medallist, Tommie Smith and Bronze medallist, John Carlos, raised black-gloved fists on the medal dais in support of the civil rights struggle in America. One of Olympic history's most famous photographs tells a story of two athletes' courage. Courage that would be repaid by being sent home in disgrace and subjected to death threats. Today, Smith and Carlos are civil rights heroes. Statues of both athletes can be found at their alma mater, San Jose State University.

This story would not be complete without mention of the Silver medallist, Australia's Peter Norman. He too, took action in support of Smith and Carlos. You can see the badge supporting civil rights on the left side of his tracksuit. He paid a great personal price, being sidelined and ignored by Australian athletics, to the point that he was given no pride of place in ceremonies surrounding the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.

I, and I hope 'we', coach athletes to be better people. To be ethical and make right decisions. And when they do, we should support them. History will not judge their critics kindly. But they will be remembered for what they did as being the right thing.

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