What’s More Important Than Winning?

What’s More Important Than Winning?

by Bill High

When does losing bring greater recognition than winning? Not often, but this story fits the bill. It’s also a wonderful example of an individual acting on his guiding values on the fly.

In December 2012, Spanish runner Ivan Fernandez Anaya lost his cross-country race, but won the admiration of people all over the world.

Fernandez Anaya trailed the race leader, Kenyan runner Abel Mutai. (Mutai had won a Bronze medal in the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the London Olympics.)

Mutai slowed about 10 meters short of the finish line, mistakenly thinking he’d finished. The Spanish spectators urged him onward, but Mutai didn’t understand what they were shouting.

When Fernandez Anaya caught up to him, he refused to exploit the mistake to win. He pointed and pushed Mutai toward the finish line, slowing down to cross just behind him.

Why didn’t he take the win? Here’s what Fernandez Anaya told local media at the time: “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.”

In the world of sports, but also in business and other relationships, many act as if winning is everything. But Fernandez Anaya acted on other values—decency, fair play, and respect.

Which kind of world would you rather live in: one where winning is everything, or one where our actions are guided by integrity, respect, and generosity of spirit?

One more instructive quote from Fernandez Anaya, when pressed by a reporter as to why he didn’t win when he could have.

“But what would be the merit of my victory? What would be the honor of that medal? What would my mom think of that?”

I love that his mom’s influence was on display in his good sportsmanship!

What values are we teaching our children? Let’s be intentional in building the values that will help them truly succeed, to be competitive but also to do good with their lives.



Photo by Miguel A. Amutio on Unsplash

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Published August 11, 2021

Topics: Lessons with Bill


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