It can be easy to get caught up in the heat of competition. For professional race car driver Carlos Matos, the thrill of victory always comes first. Well, almost always. While leading the pack in an official competition, Matos was faced with a split decision and had to act on instinct.
Onlookers and those who have seen the footage are glad he made the right choice.
While coming around the bend, Matos saw that a stray dog had wandered onto the track. His Ford Fiesta rally car had taken the corner at 90 miles per hour, and he didn’t have much time to consider his options. Without thinking, Matos came slammed on the breaks, turned the wheel, and came to a screeching halt.
Thanks to Matos’s supreme driving ability and quick reflexes, he was able to spare the life of a defenseless animal.
Dirt was kicked up all around the car, and the plumes obscured exactly what happened for those who were on hand. But Matos had effectively avoided hitting the small black dog, who went running in the opposite direction as the car came hurtling toward him.
The decision ultimately cost him a first-place finish and a gold medal. Because of the way he was forced to maneuver to avoid hitting the dog, his car was now facing in the wrong direction. He had to backtrack several feet, driving in the opposite direction of the track before turning around.
The sizable lead he’d built throughout the race was gone in a matter of seconds.
Starting with no momentum or sustained speed allowed the rest of the pack to catch up to him.
Matos says he knew the race was “hopelessly lost” the second he was forced to alter his trajectory. He was sure to apologize to the members of his crew who had worked so hard for what would ultimately be a losing effort, but not for his decision. Realizing the result of the race was at hand, he drove at a moderate tempo to avoid any “unnecessary risks.”
Despite his losing the race, the three-time former racing champion didn’t lament his decision.
“If it happened again today,” said Matos after the race, “I would do the exact same thing.”
But while he might not have finished first in the standings, he emerged as the talk of the event for his heroism. The response to his actions has been overwhelming, and he describes himself as “sensitized by the messages and phone calls received, giving an account of what I did and, of course, that makes me very happy.”
The media was anxious to speak with Matos following the conclusion of the race. After discussing the incident for a few moments, his instinctual decision to sacrifice victory for the life of a stray pup was put into perspective.
“The dog was not very big, but in this life not everything of value is,” Matos said.
— Constálica_Vouzela (@Rali_de_Vouzela) September 21, 2017
A dog lover himself, Matos has five pups of his own back at his house. One of them, he says, won’t go to bed until he gets home. “Those who know me know I have great admiration for animals.”
After abdicating victory to save the life of a lost stray, none can argue otherwise.