New Jersey swimmer defines sportsmanship, gives medal to “its rightful owner”

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In an act of sportsmanship one league official described as “absolutely incredible,” Metuchen High School senior Michael Spark presented his Greater Middlesex Conference Championships first-place medal to the swimmer he believes is “its rightful owner.”

Spark finished second in the 100 backstroke at the Jan. 29 conference championships to Latvian-born Rich Fortels of Monroe, who broke a 14-year-old meet record in the event only to have his 51.30-second time nullified on a technical rules violation that state Sen. Samuel Thompson, 12th legislative district, called “absurd.”

After learning that conference officials last week rejected the appeal of Monroe on behalf of Fortels, who was disqualified for wearing his Peddie Aquatics club team swim cap that did not give him a competitive advantage, Spark, who was awarded first place during the Jan. 29 meet, went to Monroe High School on Monday to present Fortels with his championship medal.

“You beat me fair and square,” Spark said during a meeting with Fortels in Monroe Athletics Director Greg Beyer’s office. “You broke the meet record. You proved to everyone that you are the better athlete and the better swimmer. You were the clear winner. You beat me by three seconds. You deserve all the recognition. I want you to take this.”

See USA Today High School Sports and mycentraljersey.com

About Author

Production engineer and certified swim coach. Full-time IT consultant, spare-time swimming aficionado. 2 sons, 2 daughters and a wife. President of the Faroe Islands Swimming Association. Likes to run :-)

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