David Bustos taking the European junior 1500m title in Novi Sad (Ayuntamiento de Calvià) © Copyright
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David Bustos, the latest Spanish 1500m hope

Spain’s David Bustos made a major breakthrough on the international scene by taking an overwhelming victory in the 1500m at the European Junior Championships held in Novi Sad in late July 2009. The 19-year-old (born 25 August 1990) injected full gas with some 200m to go and the rest of the classy field just could not respond to Bustos devastating final kick.

Delighted to be favourite

Despite his winning margin, the victory was far from an easy task as he himself recalls: “Honestly, I hadn’t the race under control at any moment, I ran boxed for much of the event and what’s more, I was about to fell twice throughout the final. Luckily, I was able to regain my balance, go to the front inside the last lap and enter the final metres with plenty of energy. I realised my change of gear had been very powerful but I couldn’t imagine anybody could stay close to me; once I faced the home straight I knew the gold medal was mine.”

An accomplished Business Economics student, Bustos didn’t feel any pressure at the Europeans for the fact of being the undisputed man to beat as he was the only entrant holder with an under 3:40 performance.

“I just think that when you have run faster than the others then that’s an advantage because they always are going to respect you a bit and, if anything, they should be worried about me and not the opposite thing.”

Athletics wins multiple choice quiz

Bustos early background in sports is amazing: even before turning one year of age he learnt to swim when he still was not able to walk! Later on he also practised a wide range of disciplines such as hockey, tennis and judo but at the age of eight he turned to the No.1 sport in the country, football.

“I liked to play football but a 1000m race at school when I was 14 marked a turning point in my sports career as I clinched a convincing win from older mates, and a friend of mine advised me to join the local athletics club to find out my running capabilities. There, I was asked to complete a 500m + 300m test which I finished in 1:10 and 41s respectively although I had to throw up after the 500m run.”

The quoted times were all but negligible taking into account he was still a 14-year-old boy “who didn’t know anything about the proper athletics equipment, so I did the test with tennis shoes and a basketball T-shirt and pants!.”

The 2005-2006 season witnessed how football and athletics went together on a weekly basis, with four football sessions to athletics’ three. Even so, the gifted prodigy became Spanish indoor youth silver medallist in the 1500m at his first ever championships. “It was then when I realised athletics would be my future undoubtedly.”

Threatening African supremacy in Ostrava

Once athletics became Bustos’ priority, the accolades didn’t take long to arrive. At the following year’s (2007) IAAF World Youth Championships staged in Ostrava Bustos recorded a creditable fourth place only bettered by a couple of flying Kenyans and one Ethiopian but ahead of Australia’s Ryan Gregson who was named Athletics International’s Emerging Athlete of the Year in 2009.

“I especially remember the semifinal (where Bustos convincingly gained a post in the final by right with the fastest time overall) as I broke away from the rest with some 400m left, and when I looked back 130m from home I saw nobody close to me…and that was happening at a Worlds! I couldn’t believe it."

"Once into the final, it was very hot, I still felt the semifinal effort in my legs and had to settle for fourth which is a great performance of course, but I couldn’t avoid feeling a bitter flavour while crossing the finish line.”

800, 1500, 3000, cross country…what’s the menu today?

Coached by Johny Ouriaghli, the Palma de Mallorca born and based athlete who is the 1.81m tall offers a wide number of events at which he is able to excel. While Bustos reaches his pinnacle in the 1500m, he also has successfully tackled the 800m, holding an outdoor PB of 1:47.50, even a faster time than Spain’s European Junior champion Kevin López.

“I consider myself a 1500m runner but as a fast athlete it’s easy for me to compete over the shorter distance even without a specific build-up.”

In fact, Bustos first competed at the Spanish senior championships at the age of 16 (!), over 800m on the boards. Last year (2009) he missed the 800m indoor medal at the Spanish Champs held in Seville by just one place after defeating the national record holder Antonio Reina in his semifinal.

“I’ll likely contest the 800m event again next February at the (2010) indoor national champs but for the last time, as I should focus on my strongest event the 1500m in the near future.”

Bustos recorded a fine Spanish junior 3000m indoor record of 8:07.02 last winter, and more recently competed in the junior race at December's European Cross Country Championships in Dublin where he couldn’t finish higher than 18th.

“I arrived at Dublin very well-prepared, targeting a top-ten place but I don’t feel comfortable on the muddy circuits. It’s very discouraging to see how you are overtaken by three or four athletes whenever you have to go through a very muddy area.”

No hurry to challenge the big boys

Asked on his realistic chances of making the always powerful Spanish contingent at either the World Indoors in Doha or the Europeans in Barcelona, a cautious but adamant Bustos said, “I’m now 19 and it’s not my target to compete in Doha or Barcelona but should I reach the required standards and gain a place in the team, then I wouldn’t refuse to participate and would do my very best there."

"Anyway, my only goal in 2010 is to keep on growing as an athlete and gain valuable experience for the future. Bettering my PBs of 1:47.50 (800) and 3:39.84 (1500) would be a bonus but I don’t want to become obsessed with times,” reflected the young Spaniard who shows huge maturity for a 19-year-old.

Bustos is inspired by Russia’s 2004 Olympic 800m champion Yuriy Borzakovskiy. “I have always enjoyed watching on TV his risky tactics, coming from behind. Although already retired, Morocco’s living legend Hicham El Guerrouj is the other of my preferred athletes since I consider him the finest 1500m athlete in history. And also Ethiopia’s distance ace Kenenisa Bekele, of course: it’s incredible how he is able to cover in barely 52 seconds the last lap of a 2-minute race at nearly every major championships. I especially remember how his fellow Ethiopian Sileshi Sihine had left him behind at the Osaka Worlds, but Bekele bounced back over the last lap and caught him,” concluded Bustos.

Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF