For 60 seconds, he stood atop the starting blocks after the race had begun.
While in Budapest for the World Masters Championship, Spanish swimmer Fernando Alvarez requested that the event’s governing body, FINA, allow for a 60-second moment of silence to honor the victims of the Barcelona attack last week. His request was denied. Alvarez said to El Español, "I went to the director of the competition ... but I was told that it was not possible because we could not lose a minute. 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."
Resolutely, Alvarez orchestrated his own tribute that would undoubtedly come at the expense of his success in the race.
After the starting signal went off and the other swimmers dove into the pool to compete in the 200-meter breaststroke, Alvarez remained atop his starting block for 60 long seconds, motionless save for raising one arm to the sky.
The world record in the 200-meter breaststroke is 2:06:67, set earlier this year by Ippei Watanabe. So a self-imposed 60-second handicap is tantamount to a forfeiture of the race. Despite that Alvarez finished so late — he wasn’t given an official finish time — he stood by his decision to put the victims ahead of his personal glory.
Speaking to El Español, Alvarez said of his late finish, “But I do not care, it was [more important] than if I won all the gold in the world.”
The sports world agreed.
This is not a loss. It is invaluable win. #FernandoAlvarez 🙌 https://t.co/XOVDi5Nhb6— Monica Jain (@Monica Jain) 1503415469.0
Andalusian swimmer Fernando Álvarez did what the organisation did not want to do: hold a minute's silence for… https://t.co/vouvyVD3KK— M Strubell (@M Strubell) 1503246966.0
Respect to #FernandoAlvarez who asked for minute's silence b4 race. Organisers refused so he had his own #Barcelona… https://t.co/0bedldTh71— Katey (@Katey) 1503342212.0