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ATHLETICS

Jumping for joy in Gothenburg

Ruth Beitia wins Spain’s only gold at European indoor championships

Ruth Beitia of Spain on her way to gold in the women's high jump in Gothenburg. Ampliar foto
Ruth Beitia of Spain on her way to gold in the women's high jump in Gothenburg. Getty Images

Team captain Ruth Beitia took Spain’s final medal total at the European Athletics Indoor Championships to four in fine style in Gothenburg on Sunday by winning gold in the women’s high jump.

The Cantabrian cleared 1.99 meters to triumph over the Swedish pair of Ebba Jungmark and Emma Green Tregaro and win her seventh medal at an indoor championship. Beitia is now reigning European high jump champion both indoors and outdoors, following her win in Helsinki in 2012.

The victory was Spain’s only gold of the competition after three silver medals for Isabel Macías in the women’s 1,500 meters and Juan Carlos Higuero in the men’s 3,000 on Saturday and Kevin López in the 800 meters on Sunday.

The country has the Santander rain to thank for its new European champion. The 33-year-old Beitia had decided to retire from track & field after last summer’s London Olympics, where she finished fourth. Now a Popular Party deputy in the Cantabria regional parliament, she planned to spend her free time rollerblading around her home city of Santander. But the persistent wet weather stopped her from getting her skates on and so, after just two months, she returned to training.

Alongside her the whole way has been Ramón Torralbo, who has coached her since she was 11. “Ramón is my 50 percent,” she said after the final.

We don’t have the same resources we had before, but that also has its

good side”

On Sunday she was calm throughout the competition, as she had been the day before. “The feeling was incredible — the best. It was like experiencing two competitions. One watching the others and the other when it was my turn to jump. That balance I reached last year has remained and is even better,” she said.

This was despite having the Gothenburg public cheering on the two Swedish athletes in the arena. “You have the crowd right on top of you on the indoor track and it’s incredible,” a smiling Beitia later said. “I thought that might give them more strength to jump 1.99 meters. I knew I had it within me, but...”

Neither Jungmark nor Green had ever cleared 1.99 meters indoors before and neither did they do so on Sunday. Beitia needed two attempts. Afterwards, she went for more by trying to jump 2.02 meters, which would have been a Spanish record and the crowning jewel on her afternoon’s performance. This, however, was a championships and not a fairytale.

“Ruth is a big example for everyone,” said Arturo Casado after finishing fifth in the 1,500 meters on Sunday. “This is a new team — the outcome has been very positive. The atmosphere is really good, better than in other years. The results also arrived thanks to the fact that we are a united team. We don’t have the same resources we had before, but not having so much money in the way has its good side.”

In the final of the 800 meters, López lost out to his Polish rival and defending champion Adam Kszczot, who took gold with a time of 1:48.69. The Sevillian’s silver was one better than the bronze he collected two years ago in Paris, but that was scant reward for the 22-year-old.

“I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was almost certain I could win,” he said. “I wasn’t as loose as I was in the semis. When the Pole passed me, I was fading.”

On Saturday, Macías ran the race of her life to win silver in the women’s 1,500 meters final after Spanish favorite Natalia Rodríguez had been forced to pull out with a calf muscle injury. Gritting her teeth, the 28-year-old pulled past Poland’s Katarzyna Broniatowska in the final straight to finish behind Ethopian-born Abeba Aregawi, who only took Swedish nationality last year.

A few minutes later Higuero won his silver in the men’s 3,000 meters. A European indoor champion in 2007 over 1,500 meters, the 34-year-veteran’s sprint finish earned him second behind another Ethopian-born athlete, Hayle Ibrahimov, who now runs for Azerbaijan.

“I feel I’m champion of Europe. It’s what I was able to do,” Higuero said.