As Matthew Rees helped David Wyeth across the finish line of this year’s London Marathon a lifelong friendship was no doubt born together with a feel good story for the ages. Social media went into overdrive at the sight of this selfless act cheered on by both Princes William and Harry and the Duchess of Cambridge.
Many a column inch has since been devoted to the Swansea Harrier who sacrificed the opportunity of a personal best (he still completed the course in a highly respectable 2 hr 52 min 26 secs) in order to come to the aid of his fellow competitor who was clearly in need of assistance. Indeed Wyeth’s rescue appears to have overshadowed all other stories about the race including the astonishing achievement of his club mate Josh Griffiths who finished 13th overall and qualified for the 2017 World Championships in his first marathon attempt, despite starting in the heavy traffic of runners behind the elite athletes.
Whilst the pinnacle of sport is normally the reserve of gladiatorial battles between elite, and often highly paid athletes, their remains something special about those prepared to sacrifice their own glory in aid of their fellow competitor.
Other notable examples of the Corinthian Spirit include:
- At the 1964 Winter Olympics in Innsbruck, Eugenio Monti lent British bobsledders Tony Nash and Robin Dixon a special bolt from his own sled after the British team’s bolt had snapped during practice. Nash and Dixon eventually won gold whilst Monti took bronze together with the first Pierre de Coubertin medal for sportsmanship which was also awarded posthumously the same year to Carl “Luz” Long for his actions in helping Jesse Owens during the long jump at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.
- During the final pairing of the 1969 Ryder Cup at Royal Birkdale Jack Nicklaus conceded a missable three foot putt on the 18th hole to Britain’s Tony Jacklin resulting in both the match and the overall scores being tied. The US retained the Cup by virtue of being the incumbent holders.
- In the modern professional football, where every point won can have a significant effect, Paulo Di Canio was lauded for not taking advantage of injured Everton goalkeeper Paul Gerrard (he had dislocated his knee) when he caught the ball in front of an open net in the 90th minute during their 1-1 draw at Goodison Park in December 2000.
- In 2009 several competitors in the Vendee Globe round the World yacht race diverted from their chosen courses to come to aid of fellow competitor Jean Le Cam who had spent 16 hours in his capsized boat.
- At last year’s Rio Olympics American Abbey D’Agastino collided with New Zealand’s Nikki Hamblin in a 5,000 metre heat. D’Agastino encouraged Hamblin to finish the race before succumbing to her own injuries and telling her to go on without her. Both athletes would later receive the Rio Fair Play Award from the International Fair Play Committee.
- Shortly after Rio, in September 2016, in not dissimilar scenes to Sunday, two-time Olympic Champion Alistair Brownlee gave up the chance of winning the World Triathlon Series in Mexico in order to help his brother Jonny over the finish line in an attempt to secure him overall victory in the series. In the end Jonny lost out by just four points to Spaniard Mario Mola, with brother Alastair later calling him a “flipping idiot” for failing to pace himself correctly in the stifling conditions.
Numerous other examples exist and no doubt many more selfless acts will be completed in the future.
In the meantime Matthew Rees deserves all the plaudits he gets.