Another great story on the true spirit of sport has just come to our attention, even though it happened on December 2. Believe it or not it has received very little coverage around the world, which is surprising.
Basque athlete Iván Fernández Anaya was competing in a cross-country race in Burlada, Navarre. He is 24 years old and a runner believed to have a big future ahead of him. He was running second, and was a fair distance behind the race leader Abel Mutai; the Kenyan who won the bronze medal in the 3,000-metre steeplechase at the London Olympics.
Entering the home straight, he saw Mutai pull up about 10 metres before the finish-line, he had wrongly thought he had already crossed the line.
Fernández Anaya caught up with Mutai, but rather than overtaking him and crossing the line to claim first place and take advantage of the Kenyan’s mistake, he stayed behind him and using gestures – as the two did not share a common language – guided Mutai to the finish line and let him cross first.
After the race Fernández Anaya is quoted as saying “Even if they had told me that winning would have earned me a place in the Spanish team for the European championships, I wouldn’t have done it either. I also think that I have earned more of a name having done what I did than if I had won. And that is very important, because today, with the way things are in all circles, in soccer, in society, in politics, where it seems anything goes, a gesture of honesty goes down well.”
He went on to say “In my opinion, it would be nice to explain to children, so they do not think that sport is only what they see on TV: violent kicks in abundance, posh statements, fingers in the eyes of the enemy.”
How refreshing to see a great athlete showing respect for his sport and fellow competitors, Australians no doubt recall the great John Landy’s show of sportsmanship at the national Championships in 1956 when he stopped to check on the state of fallen fellow runner Ron Clarke who he helped to his feet. Remarkably Landy caught the other runners and won the 1500m. Such acts should never be forgotten and Fernández Anaya will hopefully be a name that is remembered for a while no matter whether he fulfils his current promise or not, for he is a true sportsman.