Spanish athletes in United States universities: Erasmus with spikes | Sports

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In the 60s, Spanish athletes trained in the summer in the Swedish forests of Volodalen and then competed in Scandinavian events. Mariano Haro was a regular there and one day Jorge González Amo, then national record holder in the 1,500m (3m 40s, Gothenburg, 1968), was chatting there with a Swedish middle distance runner named Andersson, a magnificent 800m athlete. “Andersson surprised me because he spoke Spanish perfectly,” recalls González Amo, the wisest Spanish midfield coach. “And when I asked him where he had learned it, he told me that in California, where he had studied on a scholarship for his athletic qualities.” And without waiting to be asked, Andersson told the Spanish athlete that he had fallen in love with Spain, and, above all, with the Spanish, on a very long train trip from Tolosa, where he had participated in a rally, to Barcelona. “A train slower than us running,” Andersson joked, telling him of his love for the Spanish family who shared with him and a Swedish companion the bottle of wine, the potato omelette, the chorizo, during the long hours of shared compartment. “The generosity of that family, who even invited them to stay in their apartment in Barcelona the days they were there, moved him so much that when he arrived at the University of California in San Diego with the scholarship he chose to learn Spanish,” says González Amo. “And he attended the courses of none other than Ramón J. Sender, the Aragonese anarchist writer exiled since the civil war in which the Francoists shot his wife and a brother.”

Six decades later, the number of Spanish athletes in North American universities (237, according to the meticulous record of the Catalan statistician Carles Baronet) almost triples that of Swedes (83) and is the highest of non-Anglo-Saxon countries, only surpassed in the global calculation. by the United Kingdom (340) and Jamaica (501). They will not seek or enjoy the luxury of the classes that the author of Dawn Chronicle either Requiem for a spanish villager, died in 1982, and a few may not even improve their marks or prosper as athletes or maintain the vocation of athletics, but they pursue an academic career with little expense, learn good English and some stay there working. Others return to Spain and succeed. And technical officials of the Spanish federation accept that the American university system is a magnificent alternative for the talents detected by Spanish coaches since childhood to continue progressing. They consider that due to their toughness, quantity and the team spirit that characterizes them, the competitions organized by the NCAA are a magnificent filter for the emergence of crème de la crème.

“In Spain, the federation does not have much money to help athletes in their training period, in which they normally depend on the will of their parents, who buy their clothes and have to take them to training in their vehicles. and the competitions,” says Baronet, who notes that the number of Spaniards in universities in the United States has tripled in the last four years. “Normally, while they don’t have a car or driving license, kids remain faithful to athletics because they depend on their parents, then, after the age of 18, they start to give it up.”

Jaime García Romo, an athlete of less than 13m 50s in the 5,000m, 3m 40s in the 1,500m and 8m in the 3,000m, went to the University of Kentucky 10 years ago. Four years ago, at 26, he left athletics. He works as an executive in a Swiss sneaker company. His brother Mario, who continued his expatriation from Salamanca to the United States (to the University of Ole Mississippi in his case), runs sponsored by the same company and, after triumphing in NCAA competitions (indoor mile champion in 2022 and runner-up in the 1,500m outdoors), upon his return he has become the best Spanish middle distance runner. Lorea Ibarzabal and Lorena Martín, the current best Spaniards in the 800m, also studied in the United States at the same time as Mario, although they only dramatically improved their marks upon returning to Spain.

“There are more and more Spaniards who are going to the United States. This is quite important for its development, and makes up for the limitations of the federation’s aid,” reflects Jaime García Romo. “The important thing is above all to support the youngest athletes, the athletes who are about to qualify for a World Cup, an Olympic Games or a European Championship, and do not have the support of a large sponsor. I think that is where public investment should really be.”

When the life of Yago Lamela, the world runner-up in long distance in Seville 99, was told, it was always remembered that his time in the American university athletics system had not suited him very well, but Bruno Hortelano, the national record holder in 100m, 200m and 400m, and European 200m champion, achieved his best times, before crushing his hand in a traffic accident, with his coach Adrian Durant at Cornell University, in New York.

If the Paris 2024 generation has a few specimens grown in the United States, the Los Angeles 2028 generation may be even more fruitful in North American universities. At Fullerton University, on the outskirts of Los Angeles, not far from the San Diego of Andersson and Sender, Abel Jordán, the new Spanish phenomenon of high hurdles, from Madrid, 20 years old, 1.93 tall, studies and accelerates. that this winter he ran the 60 dashes in 6.59s, the fourth best Spanish mark ever. And a few hundred kilometers to the north, at the University of Washington, the Cantabrian Bruno Comín, Spanish decathlon champion, studies. In Arizona runs Aarón las Heras, already present from the Spanish background, and in other centers run Antonio López, Martín Segurola, the Tello brothers, Said Mechaal… They are Erasmus with spiked shoes, made in Spain with a USA touch, athletes of the very near future now.

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