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Feature21 Mar 2024

After double world gold, Martin continues on his path to Paris


Alvaro Martin celebrates his world 20km race walk win in Budapest (© AFP / Getty Images)

Double world champion Alvaro Martin’s favourite rock group is Extremoduro.

This is no great surprise. Roughly translated, the Spanish band’s name means ‘tough’ - and Martin is mostly certainly that.

One world title is more than praiseworthy. Two in five days needs dedication, hard work, focus and yes, toughness.

His wins in the 20km and 35km race walk events in Budapest last year also showed another side of Martin’s character: meticulous timing.

For three quarters of the 20km, he was mostly hovering around sixth or seventh place and 20 seconds or so off the pace.

Watchful and steady, Martin didn’t make his move until 15km, but when he did, it was decisive.

With Japan’s Koki Ikeda feeling the strain of leading from the gun, the Spaniard eased past and opened a six-second gap over the next kilometre.

It’s not a lot to an outsider, but when the elastic snaps on the chasers, it’s just a case of holding form and inching away from your opponents.

It was much the same in the longer race.

Aurelien Quinion made a desperate bid for glory as early as 14km, and Martin allowed him a 30-second lead. 

When the Frenchman was done, Martin slipped into a four-second advantage over Brian Pintado from Ecuador over the final kilometre. Again, it was not a lot, but just enough.

Alvaro Martin wins the 35km race walk at the World Athletics Championships Budapest 23

Alvaro Martin wins the 35km race walk at the World Athletics Championships Budapest 23 (© Getty Images)

The big question is, can Martin reproduce that calm winning effort at the Olympic Games in Paris in August, when the expectation will be even greater?

“There have always been those expectations,” he says.

“Even before Budapest, Spain has always been a powerhouse, and we have the Tokyo Olympic Games as a reference, where we achieved three fourth places and a sixth place.”

Martin himself was fourth on the streets of Sapporo in the 20km event, followed by Diego Garcia in sixth. Marc Tur was fourth at 50km and double world champion in the making, Maria Perez, fourth in the women’s 20km.

Add to that a gold for Daniel Plaza in the 1992 Olympics, as well as two silvers and a bronze spread out since Jordi Llopart came home second in Moscow in 1980.

That doesn’t take into account the Spanish treasure chest of gold, silver and bronze won at world, European and World Race Walking Team Championships events since Llopart took gold at the European Championships in 1978.

“We arrive in Paris with the certainty that there is a very good team to improve on the results in Tokyo,” Martin adds.

Bearing in mind his calm and gradual control in races, Martin’s personal best of 1:17:32 in Budapest was something of a leap from a previous 1:19:11 set when winning the European Championships in Munich in 2022.

Likewise, his 35km win in Hungary was a massive slice off his previous best – 2:29:59 down to 2:24:30, more than a kilometre in racing terms.

As one might expect, the winter months were all about building up and reaching a peak in Paris.

“Everything is going according to schedule,” says Martin, who opened his year at the Spanish 20km Championships on 25 February and then raced in the International Race Walking Mixed Relay in Valencia on 10 March.

“We are taking the first months of the year very calmly to only make peak of form that will be in the next Olympic Games. 

“In April I will compete in the World Race Walking Team Championships in Turkiye, in the mixed relay event.

“Apart from those competitions, I have my commitment to my club in the Division of Honour league of Spanish athletics. But I would also like to compete in the Coruna race registered in the World Race Walking Tour.”

At the World Athletics Race Walking Team Championships Antalya 24 on 21 April, teams will have the opportunity to qualify for the marathon race walk mixed relay at the Paris Olympics.

Alvaro Martin at the Olympic Games

Alvaro Martin at the Olympic Games (© AFP / Getty Images)

Martin made a statement with his two world title wins in Budapest, and doubling up is something of a theme for the native from Extremadura, one of the autonomous communities/states of Spain.

Not only does he have a degree in law, he also has one in political science. 

It somewhat answers the question, what does he do in his spare time?

Quite a lot more, is the answer.

He made time to found a sports commission in his home region. He is also a member of the OSCEC, Asociacion 25 de Marzo and Asociacion Cultural Moria. This is a group who meet to debate political, cultural and historical analysis, past, present and future, to make sure Extremadura’s place in the world is correctly depicted. 

Martin is clearly something more than just a champion race walker - and would like others to know so, too. 

“I like to be able to say that I'm not just an athlete,” he adds.

“My sports career is accompanied by my academic career and my social involvement as well as my interest in reading that I am passionate about. 

“Of course, I also love music, especially rock, which helps me get away from the sport.”

There are plenty of competitors who would like to see the 29-year-old well away from start lines in 2024 - but that isn’t going to happen.

Martin might be passionate about interests off the road, but he’s just as passionate about adding to an impressive haul of medals.

It’s a brave person who will bet against it.

Paul Warburton for World Athletics