Many readers may, like me, have been moved by the outcome of the Olympic high jump competition. It seemed impossible to separate the last two competitors, Italy’s Gianmarco Tamberi and Mutaz Essa Barshim of Qatar. Both jumped perfectly until each failed three times at the Olympic-record height of 2.39 metres (7ft 10in) and so having checked that there could be two gold medals they agreed between them to share the podium. Their unbridled joy was one of Tokyo’s most memorable moments.
In 2012 Spanish 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-metre 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 metres before the finish, thinking he had already crossed the line.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.
A reporter asked Iván, “Why did you do this?” Iván replied, “My dream is that one day we can have some sort of community life where we push ourselves and also others to win.”The reporter pressed him “But why did you let the Kenyan win?” Iván replied, “I didn’t let him win, he was going to win. The race was his.”The reporter insisted and asked again, “But you could have won!” Iván looked at him and replied: “But what would be the merit of my victory? What would be the honour of this medal? What would my Mother think of it?”
Our values are transmitted from generation to generation. What values do we teach our children and how much do we inspire others? It’s all too easy to take advantage of other people’s weaknesses instead of helping to strengthen them.
In a ringing context I am minded of peal or quarter peal ringing when – record lengths excepted – the quality of the performance in terms of striking & truth is entirely a matter for the band in general and perhaps the conductor in particular.
Back to 2012 I would like to think that I would have emulated Iván … but I can’t be sure.
Licensed Lay Minister (Reader) and Tower Captain at St Columb Major, Cornwall