María Vicente breaks her Achilles tendon at the World Athletics Championships in Glasgow | Sports


Pink sneakers. Street 3. The last one to bend down. First out, a few hundredths too early. Null output. The warning, obviously, as she always repeats, is a good thing that calms her down. She balances his anxiety with her desire. Deep breaths, agitated heart that calms down. Second try. The last to bend down and stretch her long, muscular legs over her heels. The first to arrive, five hurdles, 60 meters, 8.07s. Her best ever mark in a pentathlon. Accelerating towards them, the support foot already launched, killing the synthetic material, bouncing hard, and jumping again. 1,113 points, 45 more than Noor Vidts, the rival. It is 10.15am in Glasgow’s eerily bright blue sky above the covered pavilion.

Thus began María Vicente’s journey towards the gold medal in pentathlon that she hoped to achieve 11 and a half hours later.

Perfection is a razor’s edge.

The Achilles tendon, so elastic, so strong, so fragile, destroyed it.

White shoes. 11.30 the same morning in the same bright Glasgow. High jump. 1.67 meters on the first try. Safe, fast. 1.70 meters on the second attempt. On a catwalk, above, Ramón Cid, his coach, analyzes and approves. Smile. Next to her, María José Vicente, the mother of the athlete who marvels at the agile speed and silent softness of a feline, smiles watching her fly. At last. Her big moment after a few vicissitudes. The bar is already at 1.73m. After her usual first jump, like a dance, in her place, María Vicente, in a short race, launches herself towards the obstacle. Rhythmic. Left, right, left. One support, two, three and oh! A shout. Her leg fails. Without even trying to push off of her, María Vicente collapses onto the mat, her left leg in the air, her hand above her ankle, where it inserts into her Achilles tendon, where her soleus is. . Her head and half of her body resting on the mat, so soft, so cozy, the perfect athlete cries her eyes out. “Please don’t let it break me,” she is seen saying. “I put the support in and I heard a crack,” she explains later. “Something has gone up. You just have to add one plus one and see what has happened. Well, I don’t know, I’m still shaking, a little in shock, seeing them coming.”

Minutes pass. On the catwalk, Cid watches María Vicente’s steps and her sudden end over and over again in slow motion on his iPad screen. “It could be the Achilles tendon,” he says in a low voice, as if he feared that saying it loudly would make it a reality, as if he feared that it was true that the athlete who has suffered so much to reach her moment would suffer one of the most feared injuries. for any athlete, operating room and long months of recovery. The expert’s view did not deceive the coach, 69 years old, so many things seen, analyzed, discovered.

Below, on the court, Christophe Ramírez and Miquel Ángel Cos, doctor and physiotherapist of the Spanish federation, wrap María Vicente and lay her on a stretcher, and thus, amidst rueful applause and tremendous pain, they leave the court that should have been was his great success. She was the favorite. The blue bib of the best specialist of the year. She had swept the fences. Nothing could stop her. The route was laid out. Glasgow, Rome and its Europeans, Paris and the Games of it. All evils were a memory. The insidious injury to the insertion of the rectus femoris that in February 2022 slowed her progression for almost two years, the frustration of the World Cup in Budapest, where she was close to the final in length and triple.

The nightmare, again, She parades in front of María José Vicente, her mother, who hugs those who want to comfort her, and cries. “It’s not fair, it’s not fair,” she repeats. “When she was at her best, she has worked and fought to be here.”

Half an hour later, in a wheelchair, next to the doctor, next to Raúl Chapado, the president of the federation, her eyes broken with tears, the best Spanish athlete broken, María Vicente speaks to the press. “I don’t know if I’ll be able to say this quickly and be understood well. From what has been seen in the medical services, it is a complete rupture of the Achilles tendon,” she announces with a voice that she tries to keep firm, but that breaks into sobs. “When we talk to Dr. Jordi Puigdellívol, who is the one who operated on my quadriceps rectus femoris and I have had a very good recovery and I trust him 100%, they will take me to Barcelona to have surgery and start rehabilitation. I know it will be harder than the last time and I can only face it with energy and as much positivity as possible. Rest assured that I will return. I hope stronger, because I am already stronger than ever.”

All around, a funeral home atmosphere, and many words, and comfort in the air. “Much better for it to be a complete tear,” explains Christophe Ramírez, the team’s doctor, who estimates that within 10 months María Vicente will be ready for the next indoor season. “This way the operation will go better. Elongation, suturing and like new.” Nobody wants to remember the finished careers of athletes broken by one of the most feared injuries. The Achilles tendon is the tissue that signals the chosen athlete, the jump, the bounce, the reactivity, the class, the style. “The only doubt,” adds Ramírez, “is whether it will return to the same wonderful ankle it had until now. If he were a soccer player, it wouldn’t be a problem, and for hurdles or speed it won’t affect him either, but for jumps… Will he go back to dribbling like before? ”

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