Phil Hersh

Week 112 (21 - 27 November 2015)


The past week has seen the retirement of one of the most respected and influential writers in international sport: Phil Hersh. Hersh's final column for the Chicago Tribune was published on Tuesday, and an outpouring of tributes have followed – a testament to the impact and effect his writing has had on the sports world.

During his 31 years at the Chicago Tribune, he covered sports events across five continents and 35 countries – including 15 Olympic Games. His focus has been international sports politics, particularly the Olympic Movement.

In his final dispatch in the Chicago Tribune, Hersh wrote: "For nearly half my life, which began in 1946, the Olympics were mainly a foreign concept to most people in the United States."

But eloquent and insightful writing is a powerful thing and over the years Hersh's journalistic ability has played its part in instilling a fervent passion and enthusiasm for the Olympic Games in the USA.

And his words have had an impact overseas as well. In a 2012 article titled "For South Sudanese marathoner, Olympics would be the ultimate refuge", Hersh raised awareness of marathon runner Guor Marial, a refugee from the civil war in Sudan, who was hoping to compete at London 2012.

At the time however, South Sudan had no National Olympic Committee and therefore no invitation to the Olympic Games. But Hersh's article helped paved the way for Marial's inclusion at London 2012 as an independent Olympic athlete.

His words on the topic: "The IOC can do the right thing by opening Olympic race (sic) to Guor Marial, a man who ran for his life", were poignant, and they were effective.

He acknowledged this article in his final column as one of his favourite stories. And it is powerful journalism like this which led the prestigious Sport Intern publication to rank Hersh amongst the most influential people in world sport on 11 occasions.

Hersh's writing prowess will be greatly missed by the Chicago Tribune but his words will continue to resonate with the Olympic world.

Photo: Twitter