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May Tieu Honored with Jack Kelly Fair Play Award

09/13/2019, 10:30pm CDT
By Nicole Jomantas

Two-time Olympic Champion Mariel Zagunis presented two-time Youth Olympic medalist May Tieu with the Jack Kelly Fair Play Award during the USOPC Awards Gala in Colorado Springs. Photo Credit: Nicole Jomantas


Jack Kelly Fair Play award winner May Tieu with Olympians Iris Zimmermann, Mariel Zagunis and Ann Marsh-Senic and USA Fencing Executive Director Kris Ekeren and Donald K. Anthony Jr. Photo Credit: Nicole Jomantas

(Colorado Springs, Colo.) – Youth Olympic medalist May Tieu (Belle Mead, N.J.) became the second fencer ever to receive the Jack Kelly Fair Play Award during a gala held on Friday at the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Assembly in Colorado Springs.

The Jack Kelly Fair Play Award is presented annually to recognize outstanding sportsmanship and fair play from an athlete, team, coach or official.

A bronze medalist in both individual foil and mixed team at the 2018 Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires, Tieu put fair play and sportsmanship above winning when she gave one of her foils to Grace Senyo – a fencer from Togo whose weapons didn’t pass inspection. Tieu’s generous act allowed Senyo to remain in the competition where she would compete against Tieu twice – once in the pool rounds and again in the opening direct elimination round.

Sportsmanship is the ultimate demonstration of compassion between hard working athletes. For me, giving my equipment to my opponent during the Youth Olympic Games was only natural for the same reasons,” Tieu said during her acceptance speech. “Thank you to everyone who has ever given me or someone else their equipment, during practice or competition – for making sportsmanship not special, but regular and expected. I share this award with all of you.

Two-time Olympic Fencing Champion Mariel Zagunis (Beaverton, Ore.) presented the award to Tieu during the ceremony.

“I’ll be the first to tell you that I’m a fiercely competitive person. But looking back to my time as a kid and what I hope for my daughter, and future generations of athletes, is that our desire to be the best should never outweigh our commitment to integrity,” Zagunis said during the ceremony. “After all, that’s what being an Olympian and Paralympian is about. The opportunity to stretch your wings as a competitor and a human being.”

Tieu follows in the footsteps of Notre Dame Coach Mike De Cicco (South Bend, Ind.) who was a recipient of the award in 1988.

Jill Ellis, head coach of the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team that won back-to-back FIFA World Cup titles in 2015 and 2019, served as the evening’s keynote speaker with additional awards also being presented to two-time Olympic Swimming Champion Donna de Varona (Olympic Torch Award), Five-time cycling Olympian Connie Paraskevin (Rings of Gold Award – Individual) and The Hartford’s Ability Equipped (Rings of Gold Award – Program)

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