They call it the "fourth medal" but it's rarer than an Olympics gold, silver and bronze medal - and there's a growing chance a Kiwi is about to win it.

The little known Pierre de Coubertin award for sportsmanship has only been presented 17 times in the history of the Olympic Games.

A rare and major honour, the medal is in memory of the Olympics founder and is awarded for outstanding acts of sportsmanship.

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Hamblin wins fair play award


Although the Rip Games haven't yet finished, Kiwi runner Nikki Hamblin is being increasingly nominated for the award. Ever since Hamblin helped American rival Abbey D'Agostino after the pair tripped in their 5000m heat, fans have been on Twitter nominating the New Zealander for the award.

Previous winners have come from several sports.

In 2004 it went to Brazilian runner Vanderlei de Lima who was in the middle of the marathon race when a protester jumped onto the track and held him back. He was leading but instead won bronze. Since he was denied the gold medal opportunity, he won the prestigious prize.

Other winners include Lawrence Lemieux, a Canadian who abandoned his boat during the sailing competition to save two other capsized sailors in 1988. Perhaps the most powerful bestowal was in 1936 at the Olympics in Berlin. A German long jumper, Luz Long, congratulated a black American long jumper, Jesse Owens.

Long was awarded his medal posthumously after he advised Owens during a competition watched by German leader Adolf Hitler.

Owens had failed his first two qualifying jumps and was in danger of going out, before Long told him to simply jump from a couple of inches behind the take-off board.
The idea worked and Owens went on to win gold.

He said: "It took a lot of courage for him to befriend me in front of Hitler. You can melt down all the medals and cups I have and they wouldn't be a plating on the 24 carat friendship that I felt for Lutz Long at that moment."

The medal was inaugurated in 1964 and 16 of the 17 winners have been men. About half have been awarded to Winter Olympics competitors.