When losing is winning

by Parvez Sheik Fareed

At the Global HQ of the world’s most unknown agency we are easily impressed by individuals who do things differently.

Iván Fernández Anaya is such an individual.

Anaya, a Spanish runner lost a race against the Kenyan runner Abel Mutai, an Olympic bronze medallist.  Mutai was leading. Shortly before the finish line Mutai slowed down believing he had already won. Anaya could have passed Mutai. But he didn’t. Instead he slowed down as well and gestured to Mutai to keep running since they didn’t speak a common language.

Abel Mutai won the race,  Iván Fernández Anaya lost.

What got everybody’s attention, though, was Anaya’s behaviour encouraging Mutai to keep running. Anaya even said that if Mutai hadn’t slowed down, he, Anaya, wouldn’t have had a chance to win the race. He, Mutai, was the better man and deserved to win.

If Anaya had passed Mutai, he would have won.

Yet everyone would have pointed out that he was only able to win because Mutai made a mistake. Because people spot what is out of the ordinary. Mutai slowing down shortly before the finish line was out of the ordinary. Anaya winning the race would have just been an obvious consequence. His victory would have been linked to Mutai’s mistake. A triumph mainly based on circumstances, not his personal performance.

But instead Anaya acknowledged his weakness and let Mutai win. He didn’t just let him win, he helped him win.

By encouraging Mutai to keep running, Anaya displayed sportsmanship in an authentic and remarkable way. He used a situation that was out of the ordinary to create a new situation which was out of the ordinary as well. But on a whole new level. Suddenly it wasn’t about who is crossing the finish line first. Now it was about sportsmanship. All eyes were  focused on the runner-up who dominated the scene by turning a disadvantage into an advantage.

Everybody saw Mutai winning the race that day. But this was simply a side-effect. Because without Anaya, Mutai wouldn’t have won.

Even though Anaya lost the race, he actually won it.