In Memoriam Diego Garcia
2 April 2001 - When Abel Anton, the 1999 World marathon champion, crossed the finish line of the Zaragoza race in Spain on Sunday, his first thoughts went to team-mate and friend Diego Garcia who passed away on Friday 30 March of a heart attack while training in his home town of Azpeitia.
The1994 European silver medallist, Diego Garcia, who turned 39 last October, was training along with Alejandro Gomez prior to taking part in the following days Azkoita-Azpeitia half marathon when he felt pain, stopped and said to his friend: "stop, stop, I dont feel well." These were the last words pronounced by the former marathon runner before falling on the floor.
Professor Jose Maria Odriozola, President of the Royal Athletic Federation of Spain has declared: "He was not even 40 yet. One does not expect a marathon runner to die of a heart attack. He had undergone several health tests and nothing had ever been detected. This has nothing to do with the effort, it is pure casualty."
Diego Garcia will be remembered for being one of the three Spaniards to step on the European marathon podium in Helsinki 1994. He finished second to Martin Fiz and ahead of Alberto Juzdado.
Garcia started competing internationally in the 10,000m in 1987. He ran his first marathon in 1990 and set his personal best of 2:09:51 in Fukuoka in 1995 just over a year after he won the silver medal at the European Championships.
He finished 9th in Barcelona 1992 when he clocked 2:14:56 to be the best Spanish of the Olympic marathon, 14th in the World Championships in Tokyo 1991and sixth in the World Championships in Gothenburg 1995.
He was buried yesterday in his hometown in front of over 900 athletes who took part in the Azkoita-Azpeitia half marathon and offered a one-minute silence to his memory.
His coffin was carried by marathon runners Abel Anton, Alberto Juzdado, Alejandro Gomez, Toni Pena and Juan Manuel Garcia.
How his friends remember him
Alejandro Gomez: "All of us had a piece of him in the heart. In addition to being a great athlete he was a wonderful person. He was always smiling and friendly."
Martin Fiz: "My best friend has gone. I am devastated. Nevertheless, despite the terrible sadness that I feel inside, I am pleased that at least he left us while he was doing what he loved the most, running
Fabian Roncero: "this is a terrible loss. He was an exceptional athlete but above all an exceptional person. He was a great friend and I dedicate my victory today (in Berlin half marathon) to him.
Jose Maria Flores (organiser of the race): It is a very important loss. I loose an athlete, a friend, a citizen of Azpeitia. He was loved by everyone here. He proudly brought the name of our little town around the world.
Abel Anton: "I m deeply moved. I would never have expected anything like this to happen."