“An Honest Athlete,” Friend, July 2012, 44–45
Jacob’s heart pounded as he bent into position. He shifted his weight back and forth at the starting line. The starter pointed his gun straight in the air and everything went silent.
Jacob dashed into the water and began kicking his legs and churning his arms as fast as he could. This was Jacob’s first triathlon, and he wanted to do his best. He had been training hard. He was on the neighborhood swim team, and he had competed in a lot of running races. He knew he had a good chance of doing well.
Jacob finished the 50-meter swim in second place and ran to his bike. He dried off, threw on his shirt and shoes, fastened his helmet, and pedaled out of the transition area.
Jacob was supposed to ride about two miles (3.2 km) on his bike, but he wasn’t sure how long it would take. He came to an orange cone, but there wasn’t anyone to direct him. It looked like another boy had turned around at the cone, so he did too. He pedaled back to the transition area and got ready to run.
Jacob ran the last part of the course so hard he thought his lungs would burst, but he felt good when he crossed the finish line. He felt even better when he realized he was in first place!
He found Mom in the crowd, but she wasn’t smiling. “Jacob, are you sure you did the bike part of the race right?” she asked.
“I think so,” Jacob said.
“Your time is so fast,” Mom said. “I think you missed part of the course.”
“Let’s go walk through the bike course,” Dad said. “You can tell me where you rode your bike.”
Jacob and Dad started walking along the course, with Dad holding the course map. When they got to the orange cone, Jacob saw other bikers going past the cone—not turning around. Dad checked the map. The cone wasn’t the turn-around point. Jacob had accidentally missed a third of the course.
Jacob held back tears. He knew he had to tell the race officials he had made a mistake, but he didn’t want to. That meant he would be disqualified and that he wouldn’t get the first-place trophy.
Jacob walked up to a race official. “Excuse me,” Jacob said. “I wanted to tell you that I made a mistake. I missed a part of the bike course, so my time probably shouldn’t count.”
“It took a lot of courage to tell us that,” the official said. “Thanks.”
Jacob nodded, but his eyes filled with tears. Mom gave him a hug.
“I want to go home,” Jacob said. He felt tired and defeated.
But then he heard the race official on the microphone.
“It’s been quite a race!” he said. “And we saw a great example of good sportsmanship today. We had a boy who would have won first place, but he was honest enough to admit that he made a mistake on the bike course. I want everybody to give him a big cheer.”
A cheer went up from the crowd. It took Jacob a second to realize what was happening. They were cheering for him! Not because he had won, but because he had done the right thing.
On the way home, Dad told Jacob stories about other athletes who had made mistakes. He learned that everybody makes mistakes. He also learned that sometimes being honest gets you the biggest cheer of all.