Ana Peleteiro of Spain competes during the Women's Triple Jump qualification round on the day two of the 14th IAAF World Junior Championships in Barcelona 2012 (Getty Images) © Copyright
General News Barcelona

Drama queen Peleteiro ends Spanish drought

Spanish triple jumper Ana Peleteiro must have got through a box or three of tissues on Wednesday night. There were tears on several occasions during the competition and then again on the podium as Spain's national anthem rang out following her victory.

"I wasn't able to hide the tears. I beat my personal best (and Spanish national record) more than half-a-metre, and I couldn't believe it," said an emotional Peleteiro, who started out as a ballet dancer before turning to athletics in her early teens.

Certainly, she showed a flair for the dramatic that is often associated with top class exponents of her former love.

After setting a national junior record of 13.63m in Wednesday's qualifiers, Peleteiro knew she was in great shape and demonstrated it by adding one centimetre to her best in the first round of the final to take an early lead.

The waterworks started in earnest after her splendid second round effort of 13.96m and she collapsed into the arms of her coach Abelardo Moure who was watching from the stands in the Montjuic Olympic Stadium.

Rapid recovery

However, she composed herself enough to return to the runway and then jump a world-leading 14.17m with her next effort.

Cue, more tears.

Lithuania's Dovilé Dzindzaletaité must have given Peleteiro a few nail-baiting nervous moments as she also jumped 14.17m in the fifth round and then both women fouled their sixth and final attempts but the home crowd heroine prevailed with a better second-best distance.

After becoming Spain's first winner at the World Junior Championships since long jumper Conchi Montaner won in 2000, it was time for the visual taps to be turned on for a third time.

"I dedicate this gold medal to both my grandmothers, one of whom passed away recently. I said before the competition that competing at a championship like this on home soil could only be a positive thing, a big boost, and so it proved. The support I got from the crowd while I was jumping was decisive," added Peleteiro through sobs.

In the absence of any football to write about, Spanish sports writers appearing to have finally exhausted their vocabulary in the wake of Spain's recent victory at the European Championships, Peleteiro's win made the front pages of a plethora of newspapers on Friday morning.

History heroine

"Ana Peleteiro flies into history," hailed her local daily paper La Opinión A Coruña on Friday, one of many headlines juxtaposing her family name and the momentous event, not least in her native province of Galicia.

The 16-year-old from the small fishing port of Ribeira in Spain's most north-westerly region has become an instant celebrity at a time when many people in Spain are looking for anything to help lighten the mood in a time of economic despair.

Peleteiro is young enough to not only be eligible for next year's European Athletics Junior Championships in the Italian town of Rieti but also defend her global title in 2014, when the World Junior Championships will be held in the United States' 'Track Town' of Eugene.

"In the long term, I'd like to be as synonymous with this event (the Triple Jump) as Teddy Tamgho or, in Spain, Carlota Castrejana," added Peleteiro.

The recently-retired Castrejana holds the Spanish absolute record with the 14.64m, which she jumped indoors to win at the 2007 European Athletics Indoor Championships in Birmingham.

Solitary Spaniard?

"Besides her pure jumping talent, Triple Jump technique seems innate to her," commented Castrejana in the wake of Peleteiro's triumph, who also conceded that she may lose her national record before her young successor leaves the junior ranks.

Despite Peleteiro's heroics, sadly it seems unlikely that there will be another occasion when the Spanish flag will be raised during the remainder of these Championships, which finish on Sunday.

Her team-mate Didac Salas cleared 5.50m in the Pole Vault on Wednesday night, a height that would have won him at least a bronze medal at every other Championships, and on many previous occasions he would have even taken the title with such a performance, but on this occasion it was only good enough for fourth place.

The dubious accolade of being the best medalless vaulter in the history of the World Junior Championships will be of little consolation to the talented Didac.

Spain other big medal hope was the walker Alvaro Martin, who has also been included in the Spanish team competing at the Olympics in London in a few weeks’ time.

However, despite a personal best of 40:35.52 in the 10,000m Race Walk on Friday morning, the 18-year-old Martin finished fifth and also out of the medals.

Phil Minshull for the IAAF