Remember I told you guys Crawford was key.
On Aug. 28, Netherlands Antilles sprinter Churandy Martina was expecting the delivery of a new pair of running spikes from his equipment sponsor, Nike, before he was to compete the next day in the Golden League Weltklasse meet in Zurich, Switzerland.
When he received a call asking him to pick up a package at the front desk of his hotel, he thought the new pair of shoes had arrived. But when he opened the package, Martina instead discovered a more coveted object. It was the Olympic silver medal from the 200 meters at the recent Beijing Olympics.
“It was a surprise,” Martina said. “I was amazed, astonished. I didn’t expect that to happen.”
The caller, who did not identify himself, was American Shawn Crawford, who was awarded the silver medal in the 200 meters at the Beijing Games after Martina finished second but was later disqualified. Crawford felt the medal belonged to Martina.
With the Beijing medal in his hands for the first time, Martina called Crawford and invited him to his hotel room to talk. “He told me he didn’t fell good that it was his medal,” Martina said by phone Monday from El Paso, Tex. where he lives. “He said he doesn’t deserve it.”
Crawford’s act of sportsmanship is believed to be the first time a track and field athlete has willingly given an Olympic medal to a competitor out of a sense of fair play. Emil Zatopek gave his 10,000m gold medal from the 1952 Helsinki Games to Australian Ron Clarke because he felt Clarke deserved it. Clarke’s only Olympic medal was a bronze in the 1964 Tokyo Games.
Martina and American Wallace Spearmon, Jr. finished second and third respectively in the 200m final in Beijing but were disqualified for running out of their lanes. While reviewing the race video to consider an appeal for Spearmon, USA Track and Field coaches noticed that Martina ran out of his lane and asked that he be disqualified.
Crawford, the 2004 Olympic gold medalist in the event, moved up from fourth to second and fellow American Walter Dix advanced from fifth to take the bronze.
The Netherlands Antilles Olympic committee in late August filed an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) against the IAAF, the world governing body for track and field, asking that the court nullify Martina’s disqualification. The committee claims the USATF’s request to disqualify Martina came after the 30-minute time limit for post-race protests. The CAS will begin hearing the appeal on Jan. 15.
A spokeswoman from Crawford’s agency, ICON Management, said that USA Track and Field has asked that Crawford not comment on the situation until after the CAS decision has been announced.
USATF spokesperson Jill Geer declined comment because of the appeal. According to the CAS, USATF and the USOC have both requested to participate in the arbitration.
It is unlikely the CAS hearing will include an appeal by Spearmon to reclaim his bronze medal. Spearmon’s agent, Ray Flynn, said Monday that USATF would have to make an appeal on Spearmon’s behalf and he is unaware of such an appeal. Still, he heard Crawford tell Spearmon in Beijing that Spearmon deserves the medal.
“He said, ‘I don’t want this medal’, because the other two men beat him, because he got beat fair and square,” said Flynn, who was present in Beijing during the review process of the race. “I always felt that the U.S. team did not have as great an incentive to pursue the appeal on Wallace’s behalf because two U.S. runners behind Wallace moved up. I’m sure that Wallace feels he’s just as deserving of the medal as Churandy Martina is. I’m sure it still bothers him, but he understands. The rules are the rules.”
Martina feels the rules were not fairly applied to him.
“I have a question,” he said. “When we finished, and we were in the victory lap, they disqualified Wallace. Why didn’t they disqualify me like they did him? I don’t get it. Nobody can give me an answer. If I lose the case and if [Shawn] wants it, I will give it back but he says he doesn’t want it. If you were in my position, you would understand.”
Martina has posted a picture on his website holding the medal along with the words, “Yes!! It is true. Shawn gave me my Olympic medal back.”
A medal that it appears will stay in Martina’s possession no matter what the CAS decides.