Hurray! Sportsmanship is Not Dead!

While being barraged with stories of doping and fake girlfriend hoaxes, I saw this story posted on Facebook from

“Very little has been said about this…..On December 2, Basque athlete Iván Fernández Anaya was competing in a cross-country race in Burlada, Navarre. He was running second, some distance behind race leader Abel Mutai – bronze medalist in the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the London Olympics. As they entered the finishing straight, he saw the Kenyan runner – the certain winner of the race – mistakenly pull up about 10 meters before the finish, thinking he had already crossed the line.

Diario de Navarre

Diario de Navarre

Fernández Anaya quickly caught up with him, but instead of exploiting Mutai’s mistake to speed past and claim an unlikely victory, he stayed behind and, using gestures, guided the Kenyan to the line and let him cross first.

Ivan Fernandez Anaya, a Basque runner of 24 years who is considered an athlete with a big future (champion of Spain of 5,000 meters in promise category two years ago) said after the test:
“But 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.”

Unfortunately, very little has been said of the gesture. And it’s a shame. 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 …

I then saw this post on Huffington Post “Ivan Fernandez Anaya, Spanish Runner, Intentionally Loses Race So Opponent Can Win“. Well not exactly, Huff Post! The video shows that Mutai was clearly ahead and thought he had finished the race and stopped running. Fernandez Anaya’s “intentional loss” was an act of great sportsmanship. He didn’t intend to lose. He intended to “do the right thing”.

As a high school athlete, I watched as some athletes hurdled a fallen competitor to “win” a race and then a few who stopped to help him finish. I’ll bet that the latter look back on that day and probably feel more like “winners.” (Also see this story of a Ohio teen who came in last to help a fallen runner, this story of a boy who helped a boy having a seizure in a cross country race and this story of a middle school wrestler who helps a boy with cerebral palsy to “pin” him in a wrestling match to restore your faith in sportsmanship AND future generations!)

In these days of Lance Armstrong and other athletes admitting great personal failures, I wish the media would focus more on stories like the one of Ivan Fernandez Anaya and the awesome kids in the stories above. Ivan Fernandez now has a new fan for life. And judging by how strong he was running, he will have plenty of first place wins in his future!

Bravo, Ivan Fernandez Anaya, Bravo! What examples of GOOD sportsmanship have inspired you recently?

PS. If you like this story, click HERE to follow Ivan Fernandez Anaya on twitter and tell him what you think! I plan to tweet him a link to this story and the comment “You. Are. Awesome!” (Or maybe since he is a native Spanish speaker “eres impresionante.”)


One Comment

  1. Maureen says:

    Love this! I wish we heard more of these stories. Thanks for sharing!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *