The World Championship in Athletics in London have just finished, and with it, one more season in the national and international athletics calendar. We’ve seen the results – no medals and five finalists (Mechaa,l 4th in 1500m, relay 4×400 5th, Ana Peleteiro 7th in triple jump, Orlando Ortega 7th in 110 meters hurdles and Álvaro Martín 8th in the 20km walk).
It is true that the results are not as good as in Rio, where we got gold and silver. However it is also true that, with few exceptions, the individual performances of the athletes in their respective events have been more or less what we expected.
Let me share an example. Miguel Angel López, our «SuperLópez», was defending in London the title of world champion which he had achieved in 2015 in Peking, where he managed to establish his personal best of 1h 19 mins 14 secs. Wang, from China, was second with a time of 1h 19mins, 29secs and third, the Canadian Thorne with 1h 19mins 75secs..
Two years later, in London, we all hoped that Miguel Angel would put the disappointment of Rio behind him and in my opinion he did just that, 10th place with a time of 1h 19mins 57secs,a time that would have seen him on the podium in Peking two years ago and was supposed to be, in this post-Olympic year, close to his personal best.
If our best athletes manage to maintain their previous times in the World Championships but their places in the events are not the same, what is going wrong? The answer is very simple. In many other countries the level of the athletes is improving by leaps and bounds, while in Spain there is a never ending battle. Most of our medallists’ coaches are not sports professionals and they have to do a lot of juggling in order to properly train and advise the athletes. The athletes themselves are also engaged in an uphill struggle. Every year, without the economic stability that more and more countries offer their international athletes, we Spanish athletes have to fight continually to maintain our high level, which is hard enough, let alone improve on our times.
So the next question is how can we change this? In my opinion, we could begin by professionalising the coaches and allowing them to make a living exclusively from sport. This will undoubtedly help athletes perform better while at the same time the coaches will have time to find and train new talent. As for the athletes, we should provide economic stability and ensure they have a future in the workplace since the vast majority of athletes, especially in the final stretch of their careers, are in the situation of having no work experience. The bottom line is our athletes don’t get the support they need.
Let us follow the examples of the United Kingdom, a country that in past was competing for medals with us at the same level and is now light years ahead of us. Look at France, which has made the changes I mentioned in recent years, and has already overtaken Spain.
Let us take advantage of this golden generation of Spanish sport and lay the foundations for a successful future. We ask public and private sectors to support, sponsor and encourage our sport, which year after year proves to be a safe bet.