It was the final of the men’s 3,000-metre steeplechase competition at a big money “amateur” NCAA PAC-12 track and field meet, the Pepsi Team Invitational, held at the University of Oregon. Tanguy Pepiot, a runner from France for the Oregon Ducks – one of over 7,000 foreign college athletes imported by US universities to boost their programs – had a large lead with about 100 metres left. As he approached the finish line he looked to the crowd and raised his right arm twice hoping to increase the noise level of the home team crowd a few decibels as he coasted to the finish. University of Washington’s Meron Simon, from 10 metres behind, tracked him down, overtook the senior and won the race by .10-seconds. Tanguy’s face at the end is priceless:
As for Tanguy, he obviously wasn’t happy (see end of video) and said, “I saw the crowd, and it was very loud. I just wanted to celebrate winning in front of our crowd. I was excited about it. But the race wasn’t over. … It wasn’t very smart. But it was a learning experience.”
Along with the never-say-die attitude of Meron Simon, and the old adages of “the race is not over until it’s over” or “don’t count your chickens before they hatch,” I believe there is another moral in this story that is missing from the many American commentaries on this race: the negation of the ideals of amateur sport, sportsmanship, e.g., respect for one’s opponents, that is characteristic of too much American and Canadian professional sport. I remember seeing different competitions internationally where the winner would not leave the finish line until the last competitor would cross, and then shake his or her hand.