Spanish athlete Ivan Fernandez Anaya made news when he allowed another runner who was leading a race to finish first, despite the other runner's huge blunder that should have cost him the win.
In comments to CNA on Jan. 10, Anaya recounted what happened on Dec. 2 during the Burlada Cross race in the city of Navarra.
Anaya was trailing Kenyan runner Abel Mutai, an Olympic medalist in the 2012 London games, as they were nearing the finish line.
Mutai was leading the race and thought he had reached the finish line when he stopped running.
Unable to speak Spanish, he did not understand as spectators tried to tell him he was still a few meters short. Fernandez caught up to him and instead of taking advantage of the situation to win, he encouraged the African to continue running and cross the finish line.
“With 150 meters left to go, he was ahead of me by 20 meters and just before entering into the home stretch, I saw Abel Mutai stop before the finish line and I was a little bit surprised, because I didn’t know if he was aware that he had not crossed it and that he still had 50 meters to go,” the 24-year-old Spanish runner said.
He said Mutai “looked back and saw the people telling him to keep going, but since he doesn’t speak Spanish he didn’t realize it. So I came up from behind and pushed him to go towards the finish.”
Asked if they spoke after the race, Fernandez said, “We talked a little bit but we didn’t understand each other much. He thanked me for allowing him to win.”
“We train above all to do the best we can, we train hard, and I want to remember that above winning and above everything else is the personality of each person and sportsmanship with our fellow athletes.”
“On this occasion I let myself win because my heart told me that he was the winner of the race,” Fernandez explained.
He told CNA that he does not practice his faith but he does live by the values he received from his family. “I come from a very structured family and I have had the fortune to have my parents and neither of them has failed me,” he said.
Fernandez maintains a friendly and grateful relationship with his fans. On his blog he recounts his athletic experiences and shares his thoughts “with an open heart.” When he told the story of the race he said, “What has made today a special day is to have shared it with you.”
The multi-national champion runner has represented Spain in numerous world cross-country and long distance races.