Spanish Champs 1500m: from left to right: Diego Ruiz, Arturo Casado and Juan Carlos Higuero. (© Julio Fontán)
Jackson Quiñónez and Arturo Casado produced the most remarkable performances by far at the Spanish Indoor Championships held over the weekend (23-24 February) in what was intended to be a dress rehearsal in organisational terms for the forthcoming 12th IAAF World Indoor Championships to be staged next 7-9 March at the same arena “Palau Velòdromo Lluís Puig”.
>>UPDATE: Spanish team for Valencia is announced, see below<<
While the 27-year-old Quiñónez set a new and stunnig NR of 7.52s in the 60m hurdles event Casado snatched his first ever national 1500m crown indoors by defeating a star-studded field which included the reigning European indoor champion in the guise of Juan Carlos Higuero.
Quiñónez in the medal picture for Valencia
Drawn in lane 5 the powerful Quiñónez (1.90m /91 kgs) executed a nearly perfect race to lower his own previous record of 7.56 set two years ago by a massive margin of 4 hundredths. Overtaking – as it has become normal – a relatively poor reaction time of 0.182 the Ecuadorian-born athlete took charge of the race at the second barrier and had no further challenge from the 2005 European indoor silver medallist Felipe Vivancos, who had to settle for the runner-up place with a 7.70 clocking.
Quiñónez’s outstanding time of 7.52 suggests he definitely should be in the medal picture in Valencia next month since only two men have raced faster than him this season, Cuba’s Dayron Robles (7.33) and Russia Yevgeniy Borisov (7.44).
“I owe my win and my record to my coach Ascensión Ibáñez as she has planned a perfect build-up thinking of Valencia. Today I felt especially fine and managed to give my best. My next goal now is to dip under 7.50 during the Worlds. For me it’s a dream to perform in front of my home crowd” concluded Quiñónez.
Casado shows awesome fitness
The in-form 25-year-old from Madrid notched up an overwhelming win in the men’s 1500m despite facing a quality field topped by Higuero and Diego Ruiz, a convincing winner last Saturday (16 February) at the European Cup in Moscow who took the better of Casado at this event in 2006.
The race opened at a pedestrian pace with all the nine finalists covering the first 400m in 1:06.96 to go through the 800m point in a not quicker pace of 2:12.65. The crucial movement came shortly before the 1100m point (400m left) when the reigning European indoor bronze medallist Casado took command of the event closely followed by Ruiz and Higuero.
The final 400m witnessed a thrilling battle between the three athletes with Higuero trying to overhaul Casado with 320m to go but to no avail. At the bell Casado remained in the lead while Ruiz had surpassed Higuero for second. The final 300 metres only took Casado a brisk 38.9 split to stamp his authority in 3:51.27 while Higuero pipped Ruiz with barely 20m to go to secure the second Spanish berth for Valencia, 3:51.62 and 3:51.70 their respective times.
An ecstatic Casado declared “I’m more than happy since I had taken three silver medals in a row indoors before and today’s is my first gold. This sport is extremely tough and you have to overcome so many problems to reach the top spot.”
Asked which was the key factor to grab victory Casado replied: “When running in the inside I managed to overtake Higuero and take the lead, my chances of winning increased a lot as I have a big body and it’s not an easy task to pass me on the tight bends of an indoor track” concluded Casado who holds a 1500m SB of 3:38.16.
Beitia (1.96m) and Montaner (6.66m) dominant in the infield
World Indoor High Jump bronze medallist Ruth Beitia is arguably one of the main Spanish female medal hopes for the next Worlds. The 29-year-old had a clean card up to and including 1.96m before failing three times at a would-be SB of 2.00. In the Long Jump the current European indoor silver medallist Concha Montaner had a consistent series of leaps topped by her closing 6.66m effort.
Martínez grabs his 16th Shot Put title in a row
Former World (2003) and European (2002) Indoor Shot Put champion Manuel Martínez snatched his 16th national indoor title, at the age of 33, thanks to a 19.56m fifth round release to better Borja Vivas’s final toss of 19.31. Martínez has also 13 outdoor national titles under his belt.
800m: Marco surprises, Martínez unopposed
The men’s 8oom provided a major shock in the semifinal round as the Spanish record holder and former World Cup winner Antonio Reina didn’t advance to the final after a tight closing metres with Eugenio Barrios (SB of 1:47.32) in his semi, the latter getting the better of Reina by 0.05s.
The final also produced a surprise outcome as the 21-year-old Luis Alberto Marco clinched gold in 1:50.44 marginally ahead of Manuel Olmedo (1:50.48) and Juan de Dios Jurado (1:50.50) while season’s leader and Reina’s vanquisher Barrios could no go further than a distant 4th.
As expected, Osaka 800m bronze medallist Mayte Martínez had a comfortable win in her speciality thanks to a devastating final 27s lap to finish in a slow 2.10.69, far from the SB she set in Stockholm on Thursday (2:00.68).
Sergio Sánchez, a 25-year-old member of the Spanish XC squad which took team gold at last December’s Europeans in Toro, succeeded in the men’s 300m in 8:02.09. Sánchez unleashed a powerful change of gear with 400m to go (53.2 for that section) to keep former 3000m Steeplechase champion Antonio Jiménez at bay in 8:02.83, while Francisco España, the younger brother of the reigning European 5000m champion Jesús España, took third in 8:06.26.
Glory Alozie, who took silver at the Moscow Worlds in 2006 is having a below-par indoor season and had to settle for a runner-up place in the 60m Hurdles even in the absence of Josephine Onya, who received Spanish nationality in 2007. The 30-year-old Alozie delivered a dreadful start - 0.567 her reaction time to hit and stumble then with the first hurdle – and Claudia Troppa took advantage of that to strike gold by one hundredth of a second (8.40 vs 8.41).
As for the Nigerian-born Onya, who is Alozie’s training partner and one of this year’s leading athletes with a SB of 7.91 to her credit, she opted to compete on this occasion over 60m flat where she was an easy winner in 7.39.
Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF
Spanish team for Valencia
60m: Ángel Rodríguez (6.65)
400m: Mark Ujakpor (47.44)
800m: Eugenio Barrios (1:47.32), Manuel Olmedo (1:48.85)
1500m: Arturo Casado (3:38.13), Juan Carlos Higuero (3:36.74)
3000m: Sergio Sánchez (8:02.09)
60m hurdles: Jackson Quiñónez (7.52), Felipe Vivancos (7.63)
High Jump: Javier Bermejo (2.27)
Triple Jump: Andrés Capellán (16.39)
Shot Put: Manuel Martínez (19.56)
4x400m: Ujakpor, Antonio Reina, Marc Orozco, Luis Flores (n/m)
800m: Mayte Martínez (2:00.68), Margarita Fuentes-Pila (2:05.57)
1500m: Esther Desviat (4:15.95)
3000m: Isabel Checa (9:14.19 )
60m hurdles: Josephine Onya (7.91), Glory Alozie (8.22 )
High Jump: Ruth Beitia (1.98)
Pole Vault: Naroa Agirre (4.35)
Long Jump: Concha Montaner (6.66)
Triple Jump: Patricia Sarrapio (13.94 )