By the time the United States was planted, athletics and swimming federations through, Jesús Ángel García Bragado already knew that he would not dismiss his career at 50 years old. The best Spanish walker in history will have to wait another twelve months to hang up his shoes at his eighth Olympics, a record in the ‘sport king’. The unstoppable global expansion of the coronavirus has made it inevitable: Tokyo 2021 is a reality after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has had to deal with the Japanese authorities and television contracts to minimize the impact of the postponement on the Lausanne coffers .
For ‘Chuso’, the only Spanish survivor of Barcelona’92, the postponement is practically good news. It seems incredible when, in theory, time should be running against it, but it’s true. “At certain heights it is not really important. Being 50 or 51 I don’t think it influences too much if you take care of yourself, ”he says, confined to his house in Sant Adrià. And it is that the Olympic extension will allow him to fully recover from the discomfort that still brings from his agonistic feat in the Doha World Cup (his thirteenth championship), where he was eighth with 31st and 72% humidity. «I tell the Technical Committee that it has come to me like a saint to train on the tape that the Spanish Federation (RFEA) has obtained for me, because the impact at the muscular and tendon level is less. When we can do normal workouts I will have all these problems resolved, “says” the marble man. “
“Looking positive, this will allow me to get to the Games much more complete and to be able to make a more normal competitive schedule, otherwise I would have had to reduce it a lot so as not to risk,” explains García Bragado, who learned the lesson of being conservative. in the previous Olympic year. However, at first, like the rest of the athletes, the change of date in Tokyo upset him: «He counted the months that remained. I was being tough, but I was thinking: look, it doesn’t take a year. When you see that this is so, you have to reset yourself and adapt to the circumstances ». Chameleonic. There is no other way to stay at the top of the athletic march for almost 30 years, from his tenth place in Barcelona’92 and world gold in Stuttgart the following summer to eighth place in Doha that ensures him to be in Tokyo 2021. There will be disputed some Games in four different decades.
Not as much as the date, the Madrid marcher is concerned about the place of his farewell. “If they take us to Sapporo (as they were going to do in 2020 and it seems that they will do in 2021) it would not do so much harm to those who adapt less to the heat. That circumstance allowed me in Doha, preparing well for extreme heat, to be competing with kids much younger than me, “he recalls. And it is that in the World Cup he entered just in front of the Ukrainian Maryan Zakalnytskyy, current European champion in 50km, who is twice his age. «I’m not going to think about being in the top ten of the ranking by brands anymore, but by results. In a way, Sapporo hurts me.
Incognito in the preparation
Like the rest of Spanish athletes, the economic imbalance that the pandemic will create in the Federation and that threatens to upset the roadmap to the Games also hurts. “If they had been in 2020 we had an idea of how to prepare them. I suppose it works for next year, but we will have to see the resources we have. Everything seems to indicate that they are not going to be the same, we have to get used to the idea », assumes the quadruple world medalist. “I understand that the agreements that the RFEA had with some prefectures of Japan to go to train will be maintained, but it would be necessary to see if there are resources to travel there. If not, we will have to adapt to training here in a place with a lot of heat and a lot of humidity, such as the Ebro delta, ”he suggests.
Veteranship is a grade, and García Bragado allows him to coldly analyze his options in his eighth Games. «When you go to your first you have more responsibility, more pressure. What used to be talking about a medal is now doing a good job, not failing, ”says the Madrid native. “In a 50km test many things can happen: indigestion, you are not feeling well, cramps … You have to avoid withdrawing and then, technically, not have problems with the judges.” All with the aim of putting an end to his legendary career with a good taste in the mouth: “ending up retiring or disqualified would be very sad.”
The 50km march also say goodbye in Sapporo
From the hand of Jesús Ángel García Bragado, the scene of his exploits also says goodbye to the calendar in Tokyo 2021, although everything indicates that it will be in Sapporo and not in the capital, as had been planned for 2020. The 50km, which in The Games are only played in the men’s category, they will no longer be part of the Olympic program to make way for a new distance, between 30 and 35 kilometers that will also be female, as of Paris 2024. «As now there are so many sports and the Games There are events lasting 15 days, such as 50km, which last four hours, which hardly have space, “explains ‘Chuso’. “What does the International Olympic Committee want? That the events last between two hours and two and a half hours, and the only solution is to change the distance to adapt ”, he adds.
In practice, the deletion of 50km from the Olympic program means that the event will disappear from the international calendar. “It would not make sense if there were competitions of 50km and then in the Games they were 35km, so the distance is going to be extinguished after Tokyo,” says the longest running man among those who will participate in Japan. In any case, their younger colleagues are favored by lower mileage: «I understand that the Spaniards will benefit from the change. Also women. Those who are at a good international level especially compete in 20km, so a test that is closer comes better. Climbing from 20 to 50km is a very abrupt change in energy, training and focus ”. Miguel Ángel López is the 20km world and European champion, Álvaro Martín is the current continental champion, like María Pérez, and Diego García Carrera is the runner-up.