Friday, January 25, 2013

Left Side of the Aisle #92 - Part 1

Hero Award: Ivan Fernandez Anaya

We're going to start this week with a little feel-good news. It's our Hero Award, given as the occasion arises to someone who just does the right thing.

You may know about this; it went sort of viral, but it's still a feel-good story and worth repeating.

Our hero is Iván Fernández Anaya. He's a Spanish cross-country runner who experts say is one step away from entering the elite among his fellow cross-country runners in Spain. His goal this year is to at least make the Spanish national team for the world cross-country champions.

On December 2, he was competing at a meet in Burlada, Navarre; Navarre being a province of Spain. He was running second to Abel Mutai, a Kenyan athlete who had won a bronze medal in the London Olympics. The race was almost over, the gap too great. He knew he couldn't catch Mutai.

Then Mutai stopped running. He mistakenly thought the end of the race came about 10 to 20 meters - a little over 10 to 20 yards - sooner than it did.

According to Anaya, Mutai “looked back and saw the people telling him to keep going. But since he doesn't speak Spanish, he didn't realize it."

Anaya could have charged right past him to win. Instead, in a moment that showed that winning isn't always the only thing that matters, he slowed down and by gesturing, guided Mutai to the actual finish line - and victory.

And what's even better is that Anaya didn't think much about it. He said
I didn't deserve to win it. I did what I had to do. 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.
And, he said, he would have done the same thing even if a place in the Spanish team for the European championships was at stake.

His coach, Martín Fiz, is not too happy with him, saying
The gesture has made him a better person but not a better athlete. He has wasted an occasion. Winning always makes you more of an athlete. You have to go out to win.
That may be so, and Anaya admitted that if something like a world or European medal was at stake, then yes, he would have exploited Mutai's mistake to win. But ultimately, presented with the choice between being a better athlete and a better person, Iván Fernández Anaya made the right choice. And for that, he is a hero.


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