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Runner refuses to expolit mistake, helps opponent finish first

Jan 18, 2013, 12:39 PM EDT

Medallists hold their medals during the men's 3000m steeplechase victory ceremony during the London 2012 Olympic Games Reuters

And so shines a good deed in a weary world …

So Kenya’s Abel Mutai (pictured, far right) was leading a cross-country race in Burlanda, Spain, when he got a bit confused. Running in first place by a wide margin over Spain’s Iván Fernández Anaya, who was in second, Mutai mistakenly thought he had reached the finish line and began to slow down with about 10 meters still to go. Anaya could have jetted by him and won the race, but he didn’t — instead catching up to Mutai and allowing him to finish first by guiding him to the finish line.

“I didn’t deserve to win it,” says 24-year-old Fernández Anaya. “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.”

Mutai was the bronze medalist in the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the London Olympics.

Martin Fiz is Anaya’s coach.

“It was a very good gesture of honesty,” says Fiz. “A gesture of the kind that isn’t made any more. Or rather, of the kind that has never been made. A gesture that I myself wouldn’t have made. I certainly would have taken advantage of it to win.”

But Anaya has a different perspective: one which we can sure use right about now:

“Of course it would be another thing if there was a world or European medal at stake. Then, I think that, yes, I would have exploited it to win… But 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.”

This occurred last month, well before the Lance Armstrong and Manti Te’o stories broke. If only this story got as much publicity as the other two.

  1. 67nova - Jan 18, 2013 at 9:41 PM

    True sportsmanship. This young man understands what it is to compete the right way.

  2. lovinthatsomanyhateonnd - Jan 21, 2013 at 1:34 PM

    and the question remains, why did this not get the same attention as Te’o getting hoaxed? Ill tell you why..we have become a nation of bullies and internet ace holes…we love to see a good guy fail.