Great athletics returns to Munich with the European Championships

Great athletics returns to Munich with the European Championships

Great athletics returns to Munich with the European Championships

High-flying athletics returns to Munich, to the Olympic Park, to the beautiful stadium where 50 years ago Mariano Haro, who had groomed the 10,000 meters at the height of Bogotá, stamped against the miracle of oxygenated blood that made a Finnish policeman fly brought named Lasse Virén. Thirty years later, at the 2002 European Championships, it was the Spaniards who, good students, better apprentices, performed the miracle of blood, multiplying their medals on the Munich tartan under the glass roof. Marta Domínguez, Alberto García, Jiménez Pentinel, Reyes Estévez, José Ríos, Julio Rey, Paquillo Fernández and their magical doctors led a harvest of 15 medals (six of them gold, almost a quarter of all achieved in history). put Spain in second place in the last medals table and made, as a Spanish coach of the time recalls, being viewed by all other countries the way the Russians have always been viewed, what won’t they do to win it all?

“But we turned the whole past around,” says Arturo Martín, then Alberto García’s coach and now some of the best middle-distance runners who come to Munich hungry, the 19th-century Adrián Ben and Lucía Pinacchio, the 1,500m specialist Águeda Marqués , who trained in Segovia last week, with the childlike enthusiasm of kids and the seriousness of true professionals. “Today’s young people, our athletes, have nothing to do with it.”

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The young people of today, the new leaders in Spanish athletics on the track, were still crawling back then, in 2002, on the last trip to Munich, and they come with the same will to win, the same fighting spirit, but with a clean streak. Their names are Asier Martínez, 22 years old; Mohamed Katir, 24, and Mario García Romo, 23. Three weeks ago, the three already triumphed at the World Championships in Eugene with bronze medals for Asier Martínez (110m hurdles) and Katir (1,500m) and fourth place for García Romo in the same test, the queen of middle distance, the one that most identifies Spanish athletics. They are also called Sara Gallego (400m hurdles) and María Vicente (heptathlon), both 21 years old, the queens of the generation expected in Paris in 2024.

And escort them, the oldest champions, the safest competitors among the 88 selected after a controversial process that has opened a gap of trust between athletes and the federation, the walkers María Pérez and Álvaro Martín (champions of the 20 kilometers in the last Europeans , those of Berlin 2018), Diego García (silver in Berlin) and the born-again Miguel Ángel López (World Champion in Beijing 2015 and European Champion in Zurich 2014), who will march fourth over the 50 kilometers together with Marc Tur in Sapporo (scene of the march in Tokyo 2021) and Manuel Bermúdez in the new distance, 35 kilometers.

The Munich festival comes strange and unusual courtesy of the Covid pandemic, which has forced all competitions suspended in 2020 to be rescheduled in some way, starting with the Tokyo Games delayed by a year. “That’s why because of so much travel, because of the difficulty of planning, because the Covid is still active, anything can happen,” warns Arturo Martín, who saw in Eugene how his Adrián Ben’s series of finalists was broken and was eliminated in the 800m semifinals after his finalist positions in Doha 2019 and Tokyo 2021. “There can be explosions of favorites who did very well in Eugene and exhibitions of athletes who didn’t shine at the World Cup because their target was the Europeans”.

Asier Martínez, the hurdler from Navarre who finished sixth at the Tokyo Games the year he established himself as one of the best in the world, or Mario García Romo, the middle-distance runner from Salamanca, doesn’t seem to have this fear on their minds have yet to be bothered by Villar de Gallimazo, adored by fans who stayed up late to see him compete in the NCAA Tests in the United States, and the public in the final of the World Championship, finishing fourth and his mark of 3:30 .20 minutes revealed the World Cup final. For both, not so much Katir, who will compete in the 5,000m, a test in which he was a finalist in Tokyo, the European is making his debut as a favorite at such an iconic stadium. Which doesn’t seem to bother her either.

“I still think the same way I did when I was further back and could try to go for the most expensive positions,” says the hurdler, who at 13.17 seconds is already rising to the level of established champions, a far cry from his role as a kid surprised that he ended up in positions that shouldn’t suit him. “I think now, in these expensive positions, there’s going to be, say, a lot of undercover athletes with brands that aren’t real. Just like I wasn’t scared when I was behind, now when I’m ahead I don’t trust myself or see myself as a favourite. I’m the same old boy.”

Salamanca’s García Romo can’t say he’s the usual boy because he’s still the new face. In any case, he is the boy of today. “And the truth is that I was very motivated and above all with the desire to show that I’m one of the best in the world, because well I already was, now I have to keep fighting to be further,” says he the man from Salamanca. The entire Spanish team arrived in Munich by plane, with the exception of Mario García Romo, who caught a train in Zurich on Saturday, having spent the last two weeks in Switzerland trying to get to the heights of Saint Moritz in the Alps work out. “I think I come at an even better time than the World Cup because the truth is that it was very good for me to train and stay consistent for a week instead of competing so much.”

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