A winner never whines, said the American football coach, Paul Brown. By haughtily refusing to mount the award podium after the 400 meter freestyle at the FINA (International Swimming Federation) 2019 World Championships following his loss to longtime Chinese rival Sun Yang, the Australian swimmer Mack Horton became an exemplar of disrespectfulness and an antithesis of the spirit of sportsmanship.
Nicknamed Mack the Knife, Horton doubtlessly is an impressive sportsman with good records in a series of world swimming tournaments and championships. We appreciate his flair in the pool, and respect his passion for the sport he loves.
But apparently Horton's knife has repeatedly been cutting to shreds the fine fabric of sportsmanship, which in essence denotes generosity, broadmindedness and graciousness. The mission of sports has always been to promote mutual understanding and friendship among athletes and people. Competition does not sour feelings or even create animosity. As the former WNBA player Sue Wicks says, sportsmanship is knowing that it is a game, that we are only as good as our opponents, and whether you win or lose, to always give 100 percent.
The Ping Pong diplomacy between China and the US in the 1970s is a good instance, illustrating best how sports could eliminate misunderstanding and foster people-to-people understanding. It is hoped that more communication and interaction between Chinese and Australian athletes would be conducive to the improvement of relations.
FINA was judicious in issuing Horton a warning, admonishing him on his irresponsible behavior at the podium. Rules in a sports meet are meant for everyone no matter how complacent one is. In modern civil society, there are basic etiquettes to follow.
It is astounding that splashes in the swimming pool have whipped up a storm for some commentators in the Australian media, who have been thrilled to seize this opportunity to start a round of blame game. Horton's arrogance and rudeness have been generously applauded as courage. Some critics were behaving like self-righteous arbitrators to put the blame on Sun Yang while accusing FINA of unequal treatment by allowing him to participate.
Some allegations and denunciations have been directed not only at Sun, but also at China, with the intention of further damaging bilateral relations between our two countries, which in fact have been gradually moving forward on a stable path.
Imprudent and pointless attacks on China will definitely be detrimental to relations that are in a recovery mode. Concrete steps need to be taken to inject momentum for further improvement of the relationship, which entails positive, constructive and responsible behaviors.
Both China and Australia need to have mutual respect and trust, instead of showing a condescending attitude toward each other, at the swimming pool, during diplomatic events or on the international stage.
While some observers in Australia are sparing no efforts at panda bashing, China has no interest in interfering in or carping about Australia's domestic affairs, legal system and policy formulation. Each country has its own path of governance and development.
In obliging Australia and its other traditional allies, the US has its self-interest to mobilize them for its anti-China campaign, but Canberra and Washington do not have to be joined at the hip all the time.
The author Chen Hong is a professor and director of Australian Studies Center, East China Normal University. firstname.lastname@example.org
Source: Global Times