May 20, 1985 12:00 PM

It was an act that embraced all the competition and camaraderie of sport in a single moment of victory and sacrifice. Throughout the 26.2 miles of Madrid’s annual marathon on April 28, Antonio Cánovas, 36 (right), and Fernando Diaz, 36, friends and running companions from the province of Catalonia, led the pack of 4,000 runners. As they pounded out the miles, first one man, then the other took the lead. But going into the last two miles, Cánovas’ entire body was wracked with painful cramps. As the two men neared the finish line, Cánovas’ knees began to buckle, opening the way to easy victory for Diaz. Then Diaz made an astonishing decision. Sweeping up behind his rival, he flung an arm around Cánovas and stumbled with him across the finish line. The faltering Cánovas broke the tape first.

“Once we were in the lead, we decided not to fight each other and arrive together,” said Cánovas. “It didn’t matter who won. We are accustomed to helping each other. Pain and suffering united us.” The local press called Diaz’s action a gesto bello [beautiful gesture]. Cánovas, a policeman, and Diaz, an auto mechanic, will share the winner’s prize of $430. Both men were awarded free trips to compete in the New York Marathon on October 27. While the judges gave first place to Cánovas, it was clearly Diaz who had won the laurels.

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