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Swimmer refuses to dive, observes a minute of silence instead

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"Some things are worth more than all the gold in the world," said Spanish swimmer Fernando Alvarez.

Fernando Alvarez stood on the block, waiting in silence while his fellow competitors dove in to begin the men’s 200m breaststroke. He stood still, in solitary tribute to those who died during the terrorist attack in Barcelona, because when something is the right thing to do, your heart tells you so, and you don’t need other people’s support, permission, or company.

His gesture touched hearts around the world, because he chose to sacrifice his chances in an important race, not so much to mourn the dead as to remember their lives, shattered by the most recent terrorist attack in the heart of Europe.

The event took place in Budapest on August 19, during the World Masters Championships, which are open to athletes 25 years or older. Despite the Spanish swimmer’s request, the organizing committee had refused, for logistical reasons, to dedicate a minute of silence to the memory of the victims of the attack in the Las Ramblas district of Barcelona. However, he decided to commemorate the dead anyway, because “some things are worth more than all the gold in the world,” he said.

“There’s no time” is a meaningless phrase in situations like this one. And so, the swimmer took that minute of silence alone: the race could wait.

These are Alvarez’s words to the paper El Español as reported by Eurosport:

“I’d already swum the 100m on Friday [August 18], and then the events in Barcelona shook us all, and so on Friday I decided to send an email to the president, since I’d received one from him inviting me to participate in the closing festivities. I didn’t receive an answer. So, before the 200m competition, I went to talk with the directors in person, but they told me they couldn’t do anything, because not a minute could be lost due to the previously established schedule for the day. The events in Barcelona were a blow to everyone, not just to us Spaniards, and I thought it would be a good gesture. And so, I took that minute of silence anyway, standing still on the block while everyone else dove in. It doesn’t matter to me, anyway; I feel much better this way, because some things are worth more than all the gold in the world …”

Strong and decisive words, without bitterness or desire to create controversy.

Dear Fernando, you won the medal for courage!

This article was originally published in the Italian version of Aleteia, and has been translated and/or adapted here for English-speaking readers.

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