Spain at last
National team bags Olympic gold and silver in windsurfing and triathlon
After the drought, water again proved Spain’s salvation at the Olympics on Tuesday as Javier Gómez Noya swam, cycled and ran his way to silver in the triathlon and Marina Alabau, as was widely predicted, won the nation’s first gold of the Games in the RS:X windsurfing class in Weymouth.
Gómez Noya, the European champion, claimed Spain’s first-ever Olympic triathlon medal having been fourth in Beijing. And he did so battling against two considerable obstacles: the Brownlee brothers, Alastair and Jonathan, double world champion and double world sprint champion respectively, and his own heart. When he was 17, doctors detected a cardiac problem and advised the Galician to stop competing. His license was withdrawn by the International Triathlon Union (for his own good, the body said), and he was unable to take part in international events for three years. “Crazy,” they called me. “You’re going to die.”
But Gómez Noya persisted and at Hyde Park, bettered only by Alastair Brownlee, he finally ascended the Olympic podium on Tuesday. “Spanish triathlon deserved something like this and I am very happy for Javi because he really has earned it,” said compatriot Mario Mola, who finished 19th.
By contrast, Alabau, five-times the European champion and who won the World Championships held in Weymouth in 2009, was almost destined for the gold medal. At 26 years of age, the Sevillian sailor has become a fixture at the pinnacle of the sport and, with the event to be excluded from the 2016 Games in Rio, it was now or never.
“It’s my moment and I take on the pressure as a positive thing,” said Alabau before the final regatta. “I know what I have to do, sail calmly, and I’m ready. My boyfriend slept worse than I did last night,” added Alabau, who had taken the classification by the horns from the first race and never relinquished her grip.
Gómez Noya’s and Alabau’s double success pulled Spain up to 30th in the medal table following a double-silver from Mireia Belmonte in the pool and a bronze in the women’s kayak from the paddle of Maialen Chourraut. However, there is a long way to go if the team is to come close to matching its Beijing 2008 haul of five golds, 10 silvers and three bronze.
Further success inched closer later in the day as Spain’s women’s handball team reached the semifinals of the competition for the first time in Olympic history after beating Croatia 25-22. Jorge Dueñas’ team will play the winner of the match between France and Montenegro for a place in Thursday’s final.