Spanish 800m runner Kevin Lopez (© Getty Images)
As has become the tradition, the middle distance events produced the main highlights at the Spanish indoor championships at the Pista Coberta de Cataluña in Sabadell this weekend held over the weekend (16-17).
The best performances were posted by Kevin López in the 800m, David Bustos in the 1500m and Juan Carlos Higuero over 3000m on the men’s side; and Natalia Rodríguez in the women’s 1500m.
Bustos finds no barriers
Spain’s 2012 European Athletics Championships 1500m bronze medallist David Bustos started the same event as the hot favourite thanks to his indoor career best of 3:38.41 in Dusseldorf nine days ago and the 22-year-old former European junior champion didn’t disappoint on Sunday.
The race opened at a pedestrian pace with the Sabadell-born Miguel Quesada leading over the opening 400m in 1:10.03. Just prior to the 800m point, which was reached in 2:20.30, the former European U23 champion Álvaro Rodríguez moved to the front to inject a faster rhythm.
The key movement came at the bell when Quesada managed to regain the lead ahead of Rodríguez, Bustos and 2010 European champion Arturo Casado, then Bustos passed Rodríguez on the back straight and Quesada around the last bend to enter the final 50 metres well ahead before crossing the line in 3:57.07.
Rodríguez also get shook off Quesada in the closing metres to get the silver medal in 3:57.85 as the local hero fought to hold off Casado’s late challenge and bag the bronze in a time of 3:58.09 to Casado’s 3:58.20.
Lopez dominates over four laps
The eagerly awaited clash in the men’s 800m between Kevin Lopez and Luis Alberto Marco, who have both gone under 1:47 this winter, witnessed the former execute well-timed run to retain his title while the latter struggled to show his form of recent weeks.
Lopez set a moderate pace, 25.8 for the first 200m, to reach halfway in 54.89 with his training mate Marco close to him.
To everyone’s surprise, the relatively unheralded Salvador Crespo took charge of the event at the bell but Lopez kept calm and waited until entering the final bend to overtake his unexpected rival before romping home comfortably in 1:49.82.
Crespo was second in 1:50.34 while the fast-finishing Francisco Roldán pipped Marco on the line to capture bronze by 0.02, 1:50.47 to 1:50.49.
Natalia Rodríguez, a World Championships medallist indoors and outdoors, took a tight 1500m contest after unleashing a devastating final kick, her closing 400m timed at 59 seconds to take the gold medal ahead of the in-form Isabel Macías in a tactical affair, 4:38.20 to 4:38.51.
Higuero in a class of his own
Former World indoor 1500m bronze medallist Juan Carlos Higuero contested the 3000m on this occasion and his choice proved to be right as the 34-year-old became an overwhelming candidate to propel himself into the medals at the forthcoming European Athletics Indoor Championships next month.
Saturday’s event had extra interest as the former European 5000m champion Jesús España was back in action after undergoing surgery on both Achilles’ tendons just under six months ago.
The race opened at a moderate pace set by the 2009 European indoor 1500m medallist Diego Ruiz, who went through 1000m in 2:40.94 and also lead at 2000m in 5:23.04.
The 2007 European indoor 1500m champion Higuero took command with 650 metres remaining and gradually increased the pace and his changed of speed proved to be lethal for his opponents.
At the bell, Higuero comfortably led from Carlos Alonso, the 2007 European Athletics Junior Championships 3000m Steeplechase silver medallist, with España third.
A frantic 26-second last lap saw Higuero build a big margin on his pursuers and grab a a outstanding victory in 7:55.82, the silver medal finally going to Alonso who bravely held off España’s frantic challenge by just 0.01, 7:57.60 and 7:57.61 their respective times.
“I’m delighted as I’ve been Spanish champion no less than 10 times (always in the 1500m) but my last gold medal dated back from 2007. Despite the fact that the pace was not particularly slow I felt very powerful throughout the race,” commented Higuero.
“(At the European indoor championships) There will be a quality rivalry there in the guise of Hayle Ibrahimov, the French athletes, etc, but right now I wouldn’t sign for a silver or bronze medal, I’ll go there to win.”
The 2012 European Athletics Championships High Jump champion Ruth Beitia recorded her 12th national title but she had to settle for a relatively modest clearance of 1.90m before failing three times at 1.95m.
Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF