On the night of one of our nation’s most polemical events of the year, it’s nice to hear a story of kindness that we can all stand and clap for. On December 2, 2012, Ivan Fernandez Anaya, a long distance runner from Spain, was competing in a cross-country race. He ran well and was in second place to Kenyan phenom and Olympic champion, Abel Mutai. And then, as they neared the finish line, Mutai slowed down and stopped racing. He had mistaken a set of gates for the finish line, thinking the race was over.
Anaya caught up with Mutai, but instead of passing him and claiming the gold medal, Anaya put his hand on Mutai’s back, gestured to the Kenyan that he wasn’t finished, and then intentionally stayed in 2nd until they both crossed the line.
Later, when stunned a reporter from a Spanish newspaper asked Anaya why he showed mercy to Mutai, his countryman replied, “He was the rightful winner. He created a gap that I couldn’t have closed if he hadn’t made a mistake. As soon as I saw he was stopping, I knew I wasn’t going to pass him.”
Anaya’s coach was disappointed in him for not going for the jugular. But Anaya has no regrets. He knew what his conscience demanded, and not even a gold medal could make him compromise.
Here’s a brief video of Anaya & Mutai finishing the race:
Newspaper article: Carlos Arribas, “Honesty of the long-distance runner,” El Pais (In English), (12-19-12)