As well as uniting the world, the Olympic Games are also known to produce iconic moments in sporting history. From the marathon, to the swim relay and the legends that have braved the anticipation and pressure that is the 100m sprint, we’ve seen athletes carve their names in the history books with feats of athletic prowess, impossible strength or speed, or where a medal-finish has eluded them, acts of sportsmanship and camaraderie that go beyond the confines of sporting competition itself. And if there’s one moment that stood out from Tokyo 2020, it was that of Aussie decathlete Cedric Dubler slowing down in the 1500m race, bringing himself parallel with fellow teammate Ash Moloney, all so he could yell in Moloney’s ear and push him to run faster, to cross that line quicker than he thought possible, securing a medal in the process.
Images of the scene continued to play out across social media, with audiences around the world mesmerised by the heroic act from Dubler who sacrificed his own position in the race to help cheer on his teammate. Now, this act of sportsmanship has been officially recognised with an Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) award.
The 1500m was the final event of the decathlon and given the current point ranking, Moloney needed to cross the finish line close enough to a rival to secure a historic medal. Visibly suffering and looking like he was sure to slow down, Dubler instead urged Moloney on, helping him push through the pain barrier to secure a bronze, becoming the first Australian decathlete to win an Olympic medal in the process. Speaking after the race, Moloney said: “I could hear his [Dubler’s] voice bouncing in my cranium like a bat out of hell.”
The AOC presented Dubler with the Cecil Healy Award for Outstanding Sportsmanship displayed at an Olympic Games. As many will know, Healy was commended for sportsmanship at the 1912 Stockholm Games after the swimmer insisted 100m favourite Duke Kahanamoku be allowed to contest the final, after the American missed his semi-final due to a mix-up. Officials held a special semi-final to include Kahanamoku, who later went on to win gold in the final, with Healy taking silver.
As AOC chief executive Matt Carroll explained, “In the closing stages, Cedric had no other thought, other than the possibility for his teammate winning an Olympic medal. He could have easily chosen to improve his own standing in the event, but he made another choice and it was a noble one.”
Speaking about the award, Dubler said: “I am absolutely honoured and really quite amazed that something that happened in the moment can result in this type of recognition. We don’t compete at the Olympic Games thinking about these moments. Every athlete just wants to do their best and performance is the focus. The camaraderie amongst decathletes is something very special, but I also felt a really strong bond within our Australian team in Tokyo.”
He added, “I am still stunned that my spontaneous decision to urge him on struck such a chord around the world. I definitely can’t compare my actions with those of Cecil Healy, but I am immensely proud to be the first Australian to win this award, named in his honour.”