When sportsmanship loses out to the desire to win….

There are a number of new-ish events on the summer racing scene this year and this is great to see. The new events have brought a new sponsor into the sport and this is always great to see. The new sponsor has brought in cash prizes and as the Bank of Mum and Dad’s purse strings get tighter and tighter, any chance to help pay the increasing bills for racing is eagerly sought.

The recent races at Chill Factore in Manchester saw, some may say, a slightly unsavoury, incident. Nothing illegal happened, just the way a racer manipulated the way he would be able to guarantee himself winning the cash prize for winning the four race series.

The racer in question had put himself in the situation of having to resort to ‘tactical racing’ by deciding to miss one of the earlier rounds. When another racer won that round and then finished second in the next race, the difference in points available for the last two rounds meant that the racer would have to play the system so that he could maximise the difference in points he could win in each race in order to win the series.

A late entry had also meant that a later start for the qualifying race was ensured and despite the poorer slope conditions, he knew what he had to do to put his plan into action.

By deliberately going slowly in the qualifying run for round three so he raced his competition in the earlier rounds, thereby trying to maximise the points difference, he played the system. He won the round and went on to win the race, scoring maximum points. This left parents and onlookers questioning why he was skiing slowly in the qualification run. The racer had the eyes on the bigger picture of the cash prize for winning the series.

Tactics changed on round four as he skied fast but then ‘missed’ the last gate as he explained “I was going too fast.” This again ensured that he manipulated the system to race his rival early on and this could go on to win the race and ensure with three race ‘wins’ he was the Overall Series winner.

Is this fair? Right? Sporting? Or clever….

There is nothing in the Pro Slalom rule book to say you must endeavour to ski as fast as possible at all stages of the racing. Many would argue this was an intelligent way of racing so that he took maximum reward. There is no doubt that the cash reward will help pay for forthcoming bills.

The defeated (or as some would say, out thought) racer was not impressed with losing out on the rewards. He still took second place in the series but after having won the opening race of the series felt that he was almost cheated out of taking the series win.

Other racers have admitted to deliberately false starting in head-to-head races to put the pressure on their opponent but to blatantly manipulate the way the draw would pan out for your own benefit, is this clever or is this abusing sportsmanship? The racer took the decision not to attend the first round with the knowledge that this would hinder his series chances. Some would say, ‘you live by the sword, you die by the sword.’

Spectators and organisers of new events want the best racers fighting it out in the finals and for these to be the memories of the event. Controversy is never far away from new events that try to increase the excitement of the sport it seems, especially when prize funds are becoming a key factor to race.
What it will do is focus racers minds as to not only the race itself, but to how the event and series can be manipulated. In an age where younger racers will be influenced by older racers, it will be an interesting time for officials and organisers of future events and will it affect the quantum of entrants ?

‘Losing a game is heartbreaking. Losing your sense of excellence or worth is a tragedy.’ - Joe Paterno American Football Coach
about author