On a hot July day in Barcelona, Belarus decathlete Andrie Krauchanka snapped his pole during his first vault.
He needed to borrow one from another competitor, or see his chance to win the decathlon end. He asked. Most ignored him, or pretended not to possess a pole with the needed specifications. Nobody seemed eager to help an opponent.
Lithuanian decathlete Darius Draudvila shared. He shared, knowing it could cost him a spot in the standings.
"It seemed the right thing to do," Draudvila said. "His pole broke. Mine fit to him. I said 'Take it. We'll share it.' "
Krauchanka won the bronze medal in the European Athletic Championship. Draudvila, a former Kansas State athlete who lives in Wichita, finished sixth.
Today in Lausanne, Switzerland, Draudvila is honored as one of 10 nominees for the World Fair Play Award. The Fair Play awards began in 1965 and are awarded for sportsmanship by the International Fair Play Committee.
Draudvila competed in the same flight with Krauchanka, so he saw the pole break. Draudvila is bigger, so Krauchanka went in search of a pole more suited for his build and technique. When he failed, Draudvila offered to help another potential medalist.
"He was very thankful," Draudvila said. "I really didn't think twice. It's not the way you want to beat somebody in competition, by eliminating them."
Draudvila's gesture doesn't surprise coaches at Wichita State, where he helps Shocker decathletes as a volunteer coach. Draudvila is a world-class athlete with a good shot at representing his country in the 2012 Olympics. He's generous with his time and expertise around WSU.
"He's a real giving guy," WSU assistant coach Pat Wilson said. "He's always willing to help or offer advice, and it's never in an arrogant way."
Draudvila came to Wichita four years ago because his wife, Jolynn, attended Wichita State's dental hygiene school. He works as a personal trainer while trying to keep his own condition at a peak. He will compete in the European Indoor Championship in Paris this spring. He has qualified for the World Championships in South Korea this summer. In Barcelona, he scored a personal-best 8,032 points, a performance that makes him a potential Olympian.
A typical day might include two to three hours on the track and another 90 minutes of weight training. That schedule doesn't leave much time for work, so Draudvila is looking for sponsors. Traveling as a decathlete presents unique problems.
He must take 10 pairs of shoes — each of which cost $90-$150 — for the events. He also travels with four or five poles, which can cost around $1,000 to fly to a meet. Last summer, he traveled nine weeks and figured his expenses ran $12,000 to $15,000.
"If I had some sponsors, I could focus more on training and improve my performance," he said. "The clothing and shoes, travel, all that stuff, is very expensive."
He trains at WSU, often working with Shocker coaches. Wilson, who coaches the pole vault, pushed Draudvila to understand how to use the right pole and the right grip. He also got him to practice the event more consistently.
"Pole vault was one of my weakest events, and I was thinking, almost, of quitting the decathlon," Draudvila said. "He started working with me, and I improved by two feet. Now I can be a little more competitive."