The end of the desert crossing of María Vicente, candidate for victory in the Glasgow World Cup | Sports

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Ramón Cid, a wise man of athletics and life, often says that all great athletes have, in their genes, talent, the ability to be unique, resistance, muscular capacity, but that success, ah, Success is only the result of a mental process, of work. Cid speaks in the abstract, but he looks at María Vicente, the athlete he trains, the favorite to be proclaimed today, at 22 years old, world pentathlon champion on the indoor track of dark, freezing and rainy Glasgow. María, says Cid, who has been an athlete (Olympic in Montreal and Moscow in triple jump, and national record holder for a few years, successor to Pipe Areta, his countryman from San Sebastian, with 16.69m), “has reached the end of the desert crossing . “She has reached the end of the mental process that has allowed her to overcome the role of child prodigy.”

María Vicente returns to Glasgow, to the same track next to the Chris Hoy velodrome where in 2019, at the age of 17 she led in the Europeans, along with Jaël Bestué and Salma Paralluelo (the same Salma from the soccer team, yes) the revolution of generation Z in Spanish athletics. She arrives with the best world record of the year (4,728 points) in pentathlon where, absent Nafissatou Thiam, Adrianna Sulek, Anna Hall and Katarina Johnson Thompson, four athletes with 5,000 points, among her rivals only the current champion, the Belgian Noor Vidts, has ever achieved a higher score. There will be five tests distributed in 11 and a half hours (Teledeporte): 60m hurdles (11.05), high jump (11.55), weight (14.20), length (20.15) and 800m (22.30)

More than a child prodigy, María Vicente was a prodigious young woman who at the age of 16 was proclaimed world junior heptathlon champion (100m hurdles, height, weight, 200m, length, javelin and 800m) and, at 18, junior European champion. To continue growing, she left her house in L’Hospitalet at 19 to San Sebastián to study at the University and train with Cid. Four years have passed. She has overcome loneliness, injuries and frustrations, three zeros in length at the European Championships in Munich, 2022, a tough Olympic experience in Tokyo 2021, with 37 meters in javelin. A media noise that she was not looking for. Everything has made her even stronger. “I just moved to San Sebastián shortly before the pandemic. You find yourself in a new place, completely alone… It was a very difficult moment for everyone. I had to make do with what I had, but firmly believing in what I like and what I think I can aspire to or become is what has kept me going.”

“Since he has been with me we have had a very bad time,” says Cid, 69, who also faced the tough mental process of returning to training individual athletes after almost three decades as the top technical manager of the Spanish federation. “And I, who have convinced María that the pressure she feels is the sign that she is where she has always wanted to be, fighting to be the best in the world, and with the possibility of being so, for the first time I suffer that pressure, I am nervous, I’m almost afraid that María, who is very smart, will see me like that.”

But María Vicente already embraces the pressure and is deaf to the noise of the character she has been, the great promise for so many years. “After what I’ve been through I can only be grateful to be in this predicament, so to speak,” she says. “I was talking the other day with Ramón, oysters, what a feeling, right? Being able to say, now I’m risking this, I’m nervous, and Ramón tells me, yes, but it’s better that there are and not that you are in the room again about to enter the operating room. The feeling, even if it is uncertainty, is much better this one.”

Every obstacle was a challenge. The first, the muscle injury suffered in February 2022, just after breaking the national record. “The injury was like, wow! It gave me a shock of reality. Maybe my world as I know it until now could end, and I don’t want any of that to happen and I have to give one hundred percent,” says the Catalan athlete, who sincerely accepts the almost paternal reproach that her coach repeated to her (“Like “All very intelligent people are very lazy: she is also a brilliant student who does the minimum to pass. But athletically she is very ambitious, she wants to be the best.”) “Well, yes, and no, in part,” the national record holder half-admits. “I understand what he wants to tell me and I share it too, but in my brain before it was like, well, if I’m training well, that’s it, right? I mean, what difference does it make if I go to sleep at one or eat a chocolate bar? It was those small efforts that were most difficult for me to assimilate or include in my routine and in my daily life. And I have polished them.”

The second great boost to his growth, the next shock, was received in Budapest. In 2023, to recover from the injury, he decided to put aside his one true love for a few months: combined events. “Athletics was not a sport that caught my attention because I thought it was just running and getting tired and I didn’t want to do that. But when I went to the track and saw so many people doing so many different things, I loved the diversity there. “It’s what got me hooked and it’s why I continue to do combined testing because there are a lot of things to do, I don’t want to focus on just one,” he says. But he had to focus on length and triple, disciplines in which he is also one of the best in Spain. He went to the World Cups in August and came close to qualifying for the finals. He would have sunk another. “And I was about to sink,” he says. “I saw myself in those that… after the injury I was training all summer with a lot of enthusiasm, with a lot of strength to reach one of the two finals, and I came up short, and when I came back it was like, dammit, I’ve given Now to what was now my 100 percent, well I’m going to give my 103 percent so that that doesn’t happen again. I came back with a lot of enthusiasm, I who is always, ‘please, Ramón, one more week of rest’, ‘please come, I deserve it…’ Well, I came back with enthusiasm, ready for anything, to do all the tasks. filming, everything that Ramón told me. He clicked something in my head and something changed. Everything adds up and makes the adult athlete come out.”

On January 28, in Clermont Ferrand, in the shadow of the Puy de Dôme, the adult athlete María Vicente completed the best pentathlon of her life (8.24s in hurdles; 1.76m in height; 13.84m in weight; 6, 65m in length; 2m15.50s in 800m). “Clermont was a turning point,” she says. “To say, well, last year I was good, I had no injuries, I recovered and I was doing triple and length, and I had a great time, but I have always opted for the combined, which is what I like. I want to achieve great things in combined events, and I hadn’t done a pentathlon in a long time and I really enjoyed it. My training partners came, my partner, obviously Ramón, everyone there to support me, and the truth is that it was very cool.” Three weeks later, February 18, 60m hurdles. Spanish Championship in Ourense. María Vicente wins the final with the best time of her life, 8.06s. His body and his head, his nervous and neuromuscular system, clicked and he accelerated before the hurdles, he did not slow down as he did before, and when celebrating his victory he made a T with his hands, dedicating it to his training partner and sparring rival Teresa Errandonea, a great hurdler, who had announced her retirement beset by injuries. And it was adrenaline and something more. “And you just had to see the happiness on my face, I was really enjoying it,” she says. “Enjoying and having a good time is how things turn out best. And I’m super happy. I’m back to full strength!”

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