Alvaro Rodriguez takes the 1500m in Huelva (Javier Aznar - Diputación de Huelva) © Copyright

Spanish middle distance stars ready for Helsinki - Huelva report

The 'Gran Premio Iberoamericano’ held last night (7) in the southwest city of Huelva produced a number of fine performances largely set by Spaniards on the men’s side and by rising African talents on the women’s.

Rodríguez, 3:34.47, eyes European success

The much-awaited men’s 1500m didn’t let anyone down; no less than five top-class Spaniards were in contention to battle for a European Championships spot with only three berths on offer.

The race went through the first 400m section in 55.43 to slow down slightly on the following lap (1:53.60). Diego Ruiz, the 2009 European indoor silver medallist, was closest to the rabbit followed by Álvaro Rodríguez, fresh from a 3:34.10 run in Hengelo, the reigning European indoor champion Manuel Olmedo, the 2009 European Junior champion David Bustos and Juan Carlos Higuero, the 2008 World indoor bronze medallist. Bahrain’s Ali Bilal Mansour and Eritrea’s Teklit Teweldbrhan ran sandwiched by the local stars.

The 800m-1200m section was the slowest by far as Mansour led by then in 2:53.26 (59.66 split) but it was the 25-year-old Rodríguez who made a decisive move with some 200 metres to go when he unleashed a powerful change of gear which propelled him first across the line in a fine 3:34.47 time while a fast-finishing Bustos, still 21, overtook Ruiz and Mansour over the closing stages to take second in a massive PB of 3:34.47. Cuba’s Maury Suriel Castillo came third in another career best of 3:35.10 for Ruiz’s 3:35.16 and Mansour’s 3:35.49.

"I had already clocked a PB of 3:34:10 in Hengelo ten days ago so my primary goal today was to beat my compatriots - as a lot of us were looking for a Helsinki berth - rather than producing another fast time," declared Rodríguez, who added: "I consider I should be given a spot for Helsinki after clocking 3:34 twice. I wouldn’t sign any medal in Helsinki right now. I’m a Spanish 1500m specialist and it means I must fight for the gold medal at the Europeans."

Although focused now on the Europeans, Rodríguez, the 2005 European junior champion, has also set his sights on the Olympics. "Of course, Helsinki is the closest major event, but London Olympics is the pinnacle of the season. I’ll try to peak twice this summer to be able to perform well on both occasions."

García impresses with 8:15.20 Steeplechase win

Spain’s Víctor García smashed his personal best in the men’s 3000m Steeplechase to record a brilliant win a 8:15.21 clocking, a massive 7-second improvement from his previous best. The event kicked off conservatively and the opening kilometre was reached in 2:47.91 with García always close to the pacesetters.

The rhythm stepped up over the second kilometre whose split of 2:44:99 led to a promising 5:32.90 time just before the usually faster closing 1000 metre section. Morocco’s Hamid Ezzine ruled the race but the 27-year-old García seemed to run effortlessly at his shoulder and it proved to be right when the Madrid-based athlete took command with some 850 metres remaining. García and Ezzine pulled away from Spain’s European U-23 bronze medallist Abdelaziz Merzougui by the bell and the last lap witnessed a magnificent clash between them.

The Spaniard went off fastest from the water jump, and there was not catching him as he romped home in 8:15.20 for Ezzine’s 8:16.93 while Merzougui also managed a huge career best of 8:18.03. Coming three weeks before the European Championships, García’s time - the second quickest by a European this season – place him in the medal picture.

The men’s 800m provided a tight fight between the Spanish record holder Antonio Reina and Kevin López, the reigning European U-23 silver medallist. Perfectly paced by Nigeria’s Erete Udomsinachi through the first lap in 51.03, López entered the homestraight in the lead but Reina’s late burst of speed let him to pip his compatriot over the line in a photo-finish final. Both athletes were given the same time, 1:45.58 (SB for López) but Reina prevailed by thousandths of a second.

Wangari, a star in the making?

On the women’s side the standout performance was posted by the relatively unheralded Kenyan Mary Kuria Wangari who brilliantly outclassed the rest of the field which included the reigning Olympic champion Nancy Langat, also of Kenya. After not particularly fast early laps (1:06.30 and 2:12.97) the long-legged Wangari ran in majestic style the closing 500m to set a massive PB of 4:03.87 head and shoulders ahead of the German pair of Diana Sujew and Denise Krebs, 4:07:35 and 4:07:73, respectively. Langat had to settle for a distant 14th with a 4:18.55 clocking.


There was an interesting men’s 5000m where the victory went to Kenya’s Alex Oloitiptip Korio in a career best of 13:08.59 while his compatriot Kiprono Menjo took second in 13:10.55 with Britain’s Nick McCormick third in 13:18.81 (PB).

Spain’s reigning European 3000m Steeplechase silver medallist Marta Domínguez returned to her specialist event after two years to finish runner-up in 9:24.26 behind Ethiopia’s Etenesh Diro Neda, who managed a massive career best of 9:21.54.

Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF