Spanish swimmer Fernando Alvarez has received worldwide praise after sacrificing his chance at a medal to offer a poignant tribute to victims of last week’s terror attack in Barcelona. A group of jihadists carried out a spate of attacks on the city’s Las Ramblas boulevard, leaving at least 15 dead and injuring more than 100.
Lionel Messi and company held a minute’s silence, wore nameless jerseys and sported black armbands during their La Liga opener against Real Betis. People around the world took to social media to condemn the tragic death of 15 people in the heart of the Spanish city. But Spanish swimmer Fernando Alvarez did it in his own way. Fernando Alvarez, who was in Budapest, Hungary for the FINA World Masters Championships when the attack occurred, wished to observe a minute’s silence ahead of his 200m breaststroke final. He gave up his world championship race because to hold a minute’s silence for the victims of the attack.
Earlier, Alvarez had requested everyone to hold a minute’s silence before the start of the race. But his plea was refused by the International Swimming Federation. In footage from the event, as the buzzer signalled the start of the 200 metre breaststroke final in the FINA World Masters Championships in Budapest, one competitor stood still as others raced away. He can be seen staying put as his competitors dive into the pool and holding his hands up to show that it was a deliberate act.
Speaking to Espanol, Mr Alvarez said he had contacted the competition’s organisers on Friday, requesting a minute’s silence be held, but received no reply.
He tried again on Saturday, the day of the race.
“I went to the director of the competition… but I was told that it was not possible because we could not lose a minute,” Mr Alvarez said.
“It’s something that has affected us all, but maybe because of the distance and because I have family there… I really think it would have been a good thing to do.”
He decided to hold his own tribute.
“I stayed alone. I left a minute later. But I do not care, I felt better than if I won all the gold in the world.” Alvarez took matters into his own hands in an incredible moment before the race. He observed a complete one-minute silence before diving into the pool to pursue his own race.
A video of Mr Alvarez’s silent mark of respect, shared by his swimming club, Club Natacion Cadiz, has been watched over half a million times on Facebook.
In its post the club explained that Mr Alvarez had wanted to pay respect to the victims of the attacks.
Writing on Facebook, Mr Alvarez’s swimming club said they were overwhelmed by the attention that the post had received.
“In life you have to hold values above everything else,” they wrote.
“It is a great example for our swimmers. All of his peers at his club feel very proud of him. We want to congratulate him for being a great person. For us he won gold.”
FINA – the International Swimming Federation, which staged the championships – has faced criticism from social media users, with many people taking to the organisation’s Facebook page to voice their concerns. FINA has been approached for comment.