UP medical student earns international Fair Play Award for compassion at finish line

Posted on September 07, 2023

Charné Eileen Swart, a dedicated student at the University of Pretoria’s (UP) Faculty of Health Sciences and a formidable athlete, was honoured with the esteemed international Fair Play award during the Chengdu FISU Games in Chengdu, China. This recognition stems from her selfless actions in addition to her impressive bronze medal win. Currently pursuing a medical degree at UP’s Faculty of Health Sciences, Swart’s heart-warming display of sportsmanship has captured global attention.

The unforgettable moment unfolded during the Athletics Women's 800 metres race when Comorian athlete Soudi-Thasmy Moussa, despite her best efforts, collapsed from sheer exhaustion near the finish line. Swart and Veronica Vancardo of Switzerland, both competing in the same race, immediately rushed to Moussa's aid, offering assistance to their fellow athlete. This inspiring act of humanity was captured by live cameras and quickly became a viral sensation, capturing the hearts of people around the world.

Charné Elieen Swart in action at the Chengdu FISU Games, where her atheltic prowess and compassion shone bright.

Swart's remarkable journey in the Athletics Women's 800 metres race not only earned her a bronze medal but also etched her name in the annals of sportsmanship. Reflecting on her achievement, Swart shared, "It was a surreal feeling. It’s quite difficult to put into words. Standing on that podium, I had tears in my eyes. I am thankful and grateful for what I have accomplished."

Swart's success is not just a personal triumph but also a significant milestone in her athletic journey. She views this achievement as a stepping stone to greater accomplishments on the global athletics stage, fuelling her determination to work even harder in preparation for the upcoming seasons.

The moment Swart and Vancardo  came to Moussa's aid during the race was a testament to their compassion and sportsmanship. Swart described the scene, saying, "In that race, one could see Soudi-Thasmy gave it all she had. She collapsed out of pure exhaustion. Once we picked her up, I told her to just look around, to look at the crowd and see the amazing opportunity she just had."

Swart's response exemplifies the values of empathy and camaraderie that are deeply embedded in the world of sports. She and her fellow athletes demonstrated that competition is not just about winning; it's also about supporting one another, especially in high-pressure situations like international competitions.

Swart’s journey as a student-athlete at the University of Pretoria is marked by dedication and perseverance. She began her athletic career at the age of sixteen, and in 2021, she embarked on her academic pursuits at UP while competing on a national level. In 2023, Swart made her breakthrough on the international stage.

She attributes her success as a student-athlete to the unwavering support of her coach, Ilze Wicksell, and the flexibility offered by the University. UP has accommodated her schedule, allowing her to balance her medical studies with her athletic endeavours.

Swart’s commitment to fair play and sportsmanship is deeply rooted in her experience as a middle-distance runner. She recognises the hard work and dedication that every athlete puts into their training and respects the effort it takes to compete at prestigious events like the World University Games.

"Fair Play" for Swart is not just a concept; it's a way of embodying respect, kindness, and integrity in sports. She believes that without fair play, sports would lose its essence and become a mere spectacle for spectators.

As a role model in the world of sports, Swart carries a sense of responsibility to inspire aspiring athletes and students at the University of Pretoria. She believes that sportsmanship is the cornerstone of competitive sports, promoting fairness, respect, empathy, and integrity.

Swart’s message to young athletes is clear: "We can inspire other students to have healthier lifestyles, to be more compassionate, and to show respect and empathy towards our peers from diverse backgrounds and ethnicities."

Swart’s future holds ambitious goals, both in her studies and her athletic pursuits. She aspires to excel in her medical studies while continuously improving her athletic performance. Her vision for promoting fair play and sportsmanship includes fostering friendships worldwide and extending a helping hand to fellow athletes in need, she says.

Her remarkable journey from the track to the medical field exemplifies the power of compassion, sportsmanship, and dedication and her story serves as an inspiration to all, reminding us that excellence in sport goes hand in hand with integrity and humanity.

- Author Sindisiwe Kubeka

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