Jackson Quiñónez of Spain at the 2007 World Championships (AFP / Getty Images) © Copyright
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Quiñónez’s Spanish dream

Spain’s top hurdler Jackson Quiñónez made a major breakthrough in 2007 by clinching a bronze medal at last March’s European Indoor Championships and advancing to the 110m Hurdles final at the World Championships. The 1.90m tall Spaniard who had lowered his own NR to 13.33 in the semi-final, equalled that clocking in the Osaka final where he took a respectable 7th place while contesting his first ever major outdoor event wearing the Spanish vest.

“I’m proud of my performance in Osaka. I could have sliced some tenths (off that time) in the final but I felt some discomfort in my left leg when I negotiated the last barrier.”

“The build-up for a big event means hundredths of hours of hard training. Therefore, I can’t afford to fail when it really matters, it’s as simple as that”.

Ecuadorian roots

Jackson Quiñónez was born on 12 June 1980 in Esmeraldas (Ecuador). As a kid, he used to play several sports such as football, baseball and basketball, the latter being his first serious bet.

“My family has a strong tradition in sports, even my uncle Demetrio became the captain of the Ecuadorian national team. I was selected to join my country’s U-15 team but I barely played a few minutes per match so I realised I should change sport to succeed. When I took up athletics my first events were the Long Jump and the High Jump where I managed 2.20 at the age of 18 but I soon turned to the high hurdles.

Looking for athletics glory

2000 marked a turning point in Quiñónez athletics career.  “I had not enough means in Ecuador to be successful as an athlete. My country could not offer me what I needed to earn a living in athletics so when I had the chance of travelling to Spain thanks to a scholarship sponsored by the “Olympic Solidarity” programme in mid-2000 I didn’t hesitate at all.”

“Since then I’m based in Lleida where I train under the guidance of Ascensión Ibáñez. It is the first time I have been coached by a woman and I have to say that my improvement has been huge since her tutelage as I arrived in Spain with a 14.06 clocking and two years later my best performance became 13.64 which let me to compete at both the 2003 Paris Worlds and 2004 Athens Olympics, still as an Ecuadorian”.

Quiñónez received Spanish nationality in late 2005 and has no regrets for that decision: “I’ll always feel an Ecuadorian citizen but I’m already accustomed to Spanish culture and customs and I’m proud to be Spanish. I really get on really well with, neighbours, athletes…everyone. Wearing for the first time the Spanish vest in Birmingham was a dream come true after having been living here for seven years.  
 
Ecuadorian born…but well-built!

“I was born is Esmeraldas, a very nice coastal city where most of the people are like me, tall and strong. There are lots of compatriots who live and work in Spain and the average Ecuadorian is quite short and thin so Spaniards usually ask me “how is possible that you are 1.90m tall and weights 90 kilograms being an Ecuadorian?” 

Working hard on the weakest point

Quiñónez’s personal best and national record may “only” be a relatively modest 13.33 time but the reigning European indoor bronze medallist is full of optimism thinking of the near future while explains why he feels there is still room for big improvement.

“I most likely have one of the worst reaction times and first steps among the world’s top specialists, so my first half of the race is currently too weak to make the top-three on a global event but I’m working really hard at the moment on that aspect. With valuable tenths gained in the early stages of the race I can reach mid-race with chances of winning a major medal. My interest is such that we have even bought an expensive biomechanical machine which will help my coach and I on the every-day training to slice-off those tenths”.

Valencia a perfect stepping stone to Beijing

Thinking of the 2008 campaign Quiñónez has set the IAAF World Indoor Championships to be held in Valencia as his first goal.

“On an Olympic season like this, obviously the main focus is Beijing but I can’t afford to be thinking only on the Olympics for a whole year as it would too stressing for me. In addition, I have the chance of contesting the World Indoors on home soil so I’ll only have Beijing in mind once Valencia is over. I consider myself a 110m Hurdles specialist as the indoor distance (60m) is too short for my conditions since my start is still far from ideal”.

“Of course, every elite athlete will be concentrating on Beijing this year and so I’ll try to take advantage of that circumstance to rank as high as possible in Valencia” confirmed the national 60m Hurdles record holder (7.56 sec).

As for Beijing, Quiñónez comments: “The hot favourite should be Liu Xiang: he is the World record holder, the World and Olympic champion and will perform in front of his home crowd. Xiang is technically superb but I’m sure that other athletes can beat him”. The Spaniard also tips Cuba’s emerging talent Dayron Robles as a dangerous outsider.

But “in a 13-second event like ours everything thing can happen. I took seventh in Osaka and will be aiming for improving on that in Beijing, sixth, fifth or why not a medal?”
 
Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF