In front of the mixed zone of the National Athletics Center in Budapest, a dozen French journalists huddle around Romain Barras, technical director of his team, and demand an explanation. The injuries of stars like the heptathlete Kevin Mayer, bad luck, eyes set on the Paris 2024 Games… Excuses, or reasons, depending on how you see it. The fact is that France left the Athletics World Championship the day before yesterday with only one medal, one silver, the men’s 4×400 relay, which saved the honor. A disaster. A chasm into which Germany also sank, which ended without podiums for the first time in its history; Belgium, also empty; and even Poland, with two silver medals after the most brilliant period of their athletics. The old Europe failed in a championship where it had to shine, due to proximity, due to the absence of jet-lag, due to the proximity of an Olympic event that now raises doubts. Only Italy was saved, again consistent, and especially Spain.
Unlike its neighbours, the team experienced the best World Cup in its history by far. Until the day before yesterday, his best result was seventh place in Stuttgart 1993, 30 years ago, when five medals were also celebrated: two golds, one silver and two bronzes. This time there were four golds and one silver, which allowed the team to finish only behind the United States and Canada and ahead of Jamaica, Kenya, Ethiopia or the United Kingdom. The nature of the medals may seem tricky, as alvaro martin y Maria Perez they swept the march with two golds per head, but it is not. Because it has always been – in Stuttgart 1993 the golds also went to Valentine Massana y Chuso Garcia Bragado-, due to the undeniable value of their feats, because they can opt for everything in the Olympic Games and because in the stadium, after all, there were also joys. “If we think about where we were six or seven years ago, we have taken a leap in various disciplines. We are working well,” he commented. Raul Chapado, president of the Spanish Athletics Federation, who was assuming his main job now: saving the march. “There is no country more interested in it right now. We have to work because it is a fight between various sports,” the leader concluded with optimism, how could it be otherwise.
There are many months left, but there are more medal options on the horizon in Paris 2024 than there were in Tokyo 2020. The silver of Mo Katir in the 5,000 meters he shows that he is the benchmark, the leader on the tartan, and there he was again Adrian Benfourth in the 800 meters, Mario Garcia Romosixth in the 1,500 meters and Fatima Diame y Tessy Ebosele, both finalists in the length. If you want to ignore the medal table and look directly at the table of positions -a practice to the taste of the technicians-, Spain was seventh ahead of Italy, the Netherlands, Germany, Norway and of course France or Belgium. “We are not the third world power, it would be false to say that, but we have done a very good performance. We must try to continue at this level”, summed up the coach Pepe Peiro, logically happy after attending Katir’s medal ceremony, which was the one that closed the World Cup.
Nobody admitted it, but ten days ago the team arrived in Budapest with fears. The march had failed in the last championships; the only Olympic medalist was missing in Tokyo 2020, Ana Peleteiro; one of the two bronzes was not in the 2022 Eugene World Cup, asier martinez; podium candidates like Orlando Ortega y Eusebio Cáceres they were lost among injuries; the triple shooter Jordan Diaz he still could not compete for Spain; the men’s 4×400 relay was not in good shape… There was a danger of leaving empty and stopping the momentum that the team had gained in recent times. In the end it was not like that, quite the opposite. Now the job of the Spanish Federation, in addition to saving the march, will be to accompany leaders like Katir, García Romo or Ben, who are increasingly consolidated, and continue to promote young people. Mohammed Attaoui in the 800 meters Ouassim Oumaiz in the 5,000 meters, Enrique Llopis in the 110 meter hurdles or Mary Vincent in the combined, everything seems positive after the best World Cup in the history of Spain.