As we saw, the Spanish triathlete Diego Méntrida was celebrated on social media this week. He sacrificed third place in the 2020 Santander Triathlon to British triathlete James Teagle. James was on course to win third place in the competition in Spain when, just meters from the finish line, he missed the last turn and ran into spectator barriers. Diego overtook him but, noticing the error, he stopped to allow James to cross the finish line first. “He deserved it,” Méntrida said later.
Diego’s gesture prompted a flood of support, a match of the 3rd prize money, and he has been hailed as a true sportsman by the media. So far so good.
However, imagine my surprise when I listened to Anne Atkins on the BBC Thought for the Day yesterday. She said:
When Diego let his rival pass, it was apparently the ultimate act of true sportsmanship. We have never heard of anything like it before, yet it is supposed to be all that sport is about.
I don’t think Anne’s doubts apply to triathlon. Anne defines ‘true sportsmanship’ as ‘fairness, kindness and a genuine sense of priority’. I feel this is what the sport of triathlon and what triathletes are about.
Do you remember when Alistair Brownlee carried his brother Jonny Brownlee over the finish line in the final of the 2016 World Triathlon Series?