As has become tradition, the middle distance events produced the main highlights at the Spanish Indoor Championships held over the weekend (19-20 February) at the ‘Palau Velòdrom Luís Puig’, as the country's best athletes geared up for the European championships to be held in Paris in early March.
??In addition to the victories by Luis Alberto Marco (800), Manuel Olmedo (1500), and Jesús España’s (3000), there were another standout athlete in the guise of the 19-year-old Eusebio Cáceres who leapt 8.08m in the Long Jump to take his first gold medal as a senior athlete. In the women’s section the most remarkable performance was posted by the current World indoor silver medallist Ruth Beitia in the High Jump thanks to a first-time 1.95m clearance.
Marco beats European leader López
The eagerly awaited men’s 800m final witnessed a tactical affair between the hot favourites in the guise of the reigning European Junior champion Kevin López and his training mate Luis Alberto Marco, the current European indoor silver medallist.
The 24-year-old Marco took the lead from the gun but he set a slow pace of 56.27 for the opening 400m and nobody tried to overtake him until the last lap. It was López, who holds the fastest European time so far this season thanks to a 1:46.06 clocking, who made a late effort to outclash Marco twice - at the backstraight and the homestraight - but the Barcelona Europeans seventh placed prevailed to win convincingly in 1:50.42 for López’s 1:50.71 in second.
“It’s true that my mate López arrived at the championships with the quickest European time but I was always confident of doing a fine race and taking the win. I like to have the race under control from the gun and then see what the others do,” confirmed the winner.
On his chances in Paris, a cautious Marco commented: “I’m training even better than when I grabbed silver in Turin two years ago but I now ranks ‘only’ eighth on the season’s list. Anyway, my 1:47.22 time I ran in Stuttgart doesn’t properly reflect my kind of current fitness, I can run faster. The line-up in Paris will be of the highest calibre with the Polish pair of Lewandowski and Kszczot, the German duo of Schembera and Keiner, Holusa of The Czech Republic, my fellow Spaniard López…but I wouldn’t sign now a silver medal, I’ll go for the win.”
Solo 3000m run for España
Reigning European 5000m silver medallist Jesús España added a new title to his huge collection - five indoors over 3000m and seven outdoors in the 5000m – but the big news came in the way of his win in terms of the tactics game. In contrast with his trademark late burst of speed in the closing metres, the 32-year-old took charge of the race from the gun and nobody dared to join him at the top.
The three-time European indoor 3000m bronze medallist went through the 1000m in 2:37:50 and the 2000 in 5:16:48 while the chasing group ran well behind some four seconds slower.
But the stiff fight for the minor places on the podium led to a tighter than expected finish as the chasing group reduced España’s advantage to 15 metres at the bell. However the experienced champion knew how to deal with the situation and managed to keep his rivals at bay to romp home in 7:50.70 while his training mate Víctor García landed the silver medal (7:51.95) and Javier Alves grabbed bronze in 7:52.40. Reportedly, World indoor silver medallist Sergio Sánchez (SB of 7:54.17) was sick and he will miss the European indoors.
España, who was making his indoor season debut in Valencia declared: “I had planned to compete in Stuttgart (5 Feb.) but I got a type A influenza in mid-January which led me to lose valuable days of training and so I decided to train hard instead of competing there. I wanted to test myself in Valencia but I was not looking for a particularly fast time. I’m satisfied because I reacted pretty well when the chasing group approached me over the closing laps and I managed to open the gap after the bell.”
Asked on his toughest rivals in Paris España said, “I think Mo Farah is a bit superior to the rest but I’ll fight to the death to improve on my bronze medals I’ve managed so far.”
Olmedo succeeds by inches??
Even in the absence of the reigning European 1500m champion Arturo Casado - who will be bidding next weekend for a berth on the Spanish team competing at the IAAF World Cross Country championships in Punta Umbría - all eyes on Sunday were set on the men’s 1500m final. With three Paris spots on offer, it seemed clear that the current European silver medallists Olmedo (outdoor) and Diego Ruiz (indoor) plus the 2008 World indoor bronze medallist Juan Carlos Higuero should gain selection with ease but the final promised to be fiercely fought among them and it proved to be so.
The 12-man straight final opened at a very slow rhythm (1:03.83 for the 400m split) before Miguel Cartagena injected a brisker pace to go through the 800m point in 2:04.20. It was at the 1100m that Higuero moved to the front reaching the 1200m in 3:04.54 pursued by Ruiz and Olmedo very closely.
The final lap was more than thrilling with Higuero bravely holding off the challenge from his pursuers until 10m to the finish line when Olmedo – who holds the second European 800m time so far this year in 1:46.07 – and Ruiz (SB of 3:38.26) pipped him simultaneously, Olmedo on his left and Ruiz on the outside, the former prevailing in the end by barely 0.03s (3:45.93 vs 3:45.96) while Higuero had to settle for third on this occasion timed at 3:46.14.
Cáceres (8.08m) shines in the infield
Reigning World junior Long Jump silver medallist Eusebio Cáceres landed his first senior title by leaping a season’s best of 8.08 on his third jump to rise to the fourth place on the season’s European list. One hour earlier, the Spanish prodigy had advanced to the 60m final thanks to a 6.82 clocking in his semi but he decided not to compete in the final as a precautionary measure as he felt some discomfort in the run-up of his sixth attempt in the Long Jump.
Cáceres beat Olympic seventh placed Luis Felipe Meliz (SB of 7.93) who couldn’t go beyond 7.85 while the 60m event went for Iván Mocholí in 6.69 ahead of the defending champion Ángel Rodríguez (6.72).
Also in the infield, the reigning Youth Olympics Games champion Didac Salas set a national best performance thanks to a third-try 5.30m clearance to take bronze at the age of 17 while another junior athlete like Vicente Docavo managed a massive PB of 16.61m in the Triple Jump to take the gold.
In the women’s section former World junior Long Jump champion Concha Montaner produced a 6.57m effort while Naroa Agirre had a 4.30m success in the Pole Vault to bag her ninth national title. Bárbara Hernando improved the Spanish record in the Heptathlon with 4381 points.
Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF