On December 2 last year, Kenyan athlete Abel Mutai was comfortably leading a cross-country race in Spain when he pulled up 10 metres short mistakenly thinking he had crossed the finish line.
The crowd on both sides of the road yelled at him that he still had some distance to go, but the Kenyan didn’t understand a word of Spanish. It was at this stage that help came from a most unlikely source.
Spanish runner Ivan Fernadez Anaya was trailing way behind Mutai in second place, but instead of exploiting his rival’s mistake and making a dash to take the top prize, he slowed down and with the help of gestures guided the Kenyan, the steeplechase bronze medallist at the London Olympics, to the finish.
It was an exemplary act of sportsmanship that runs contrary to the “win at all costs” dictum modern-day coaches drill into their athletes. Anaya’s split-second decision, courageously taken in the heat of the competition, turned him into an instant hero and ensured him a permanent place in sporting history.
On Sunday night, the Qatar Olympic Committee and the Qatar-based International Center for Sport Security (ICSS) honoured Anaya with the inaugural Save the Dream award at the Securing Sport 2013 conference in Doha.
Anaya said he felt honoured to receive the award but admitted he was surprised when he was told about it by the ICSS.
“To be frank, I was totally surprised. What I did at the race was nothing great as far as I was concerned. I just did the right thing, and here I am being honoured by people who didn’t even witness the race. I am totally humbled,” said added the 24-year-old, one of Spain’s most promising athletes.
Anaya’s sportsmanship also came in for praise from QOC secretary general HE Sheikh Saoud bin Abdulrahman al-Thani. “What Ivan did was exceptional. In the cutthroat world of modern sport such examples of sportsmanship shine through.”
Sheikh Saoud, who also launched the new logo of the Save the Dream initiative, added that integrity in sports should never be compromised.
“Save the Dream is a timely reminder of the true values of sport. The challenges sport faces today with match fixing and the spectre of organised crime are incredibly serious.
“Integrity begins at home, in the playground and on the school playing fields. Young people and athletes around the world need to be aware that sport integrity is not just something for the professional leagues and that is why the Qatar Olympic Committee, together with the ICSS, will strive to ensure that integrity in sport is not just a dream but a reality.”
Save the Dream, an international initiative to raise awareness among young sportsmen and women about the dangers of results manipulation and its consequences, was launched at the 2012 Sorbonne-ICSS Sport Integrity Symposium in Paris, France.
The initiative includes a panel of high-profile athletes from across several sports and countries as well as a multidisciplinary team of experts in education, communications, sport management and sport integrity.
ICSS president Mohamed Hanzab said the initiative will inspire athletes the world over.
“Save the Dream has been designed as a major campaign to generate a genuine dialogue around sports core values. Together with the QOC and Alessandro Del Piero (Athletes captain on the panel), we will assemble a team of international ambassadors from the world of sport, recognised around the world for their reputation and talent, to promote positive messages around sport and its positive, character-building values.
“This programme will hopefully become a powerful instrument to prevent and protect the next generation of athletes and sports stars around the world.”
He also praised Anaya.“I would also like to congratulate Ivan Fernandez Anaya on outstanding sportsmanship. He is a very worthy recipient
of the first Save the Dream Award and a role model to young athletes around the world.”
HE Sheikh Abdullah bin Mohamed bin Saud al-Thani, Chairman of the Board of Ooredoo, also spoke on the occasion. “Sport is one of the main focus areas of Ooredoo’s corporate social responsibility strategy. Ooredoo is committed to supporting the ICSS and QOC in promoting our shared message of support for sport - from the football pitches of Doha to the playing fields of Jakarta.
“Together, we can score a goal for honest competition and the true values of sport and I would like to congratulate Mr. Anaya on receiving this special award.”