Thursday, October 28

The 2,500 summer Olympians, more or less, that Spain has had



What if you feel like an Olympian? You are right. “I feel like an Olympian,” he says. Alfonso Cano. The Spanish peer was selected for Los Angeles’84, traveled and was injured before the competition. That year he had surpassed the bar at 5.5 meters, but he had also started doing the military service and “came out of shape.” He had a strain. “I went to the qualifying test with little hope of being able to participate, but after the warm-up, when it was my turn, I said I couldn’t,” he recalls. So he was in the Olympics, but he never made his debut. And that, in the field of Olympic statistics, leaves him ‘off the list’.

A list in which there are more or less 2,500 Spanish athletes who have participated in the Summer Olympics until Rio de Janeiro 2016. “There is little discussion about being an Olympian,” says the
doctor in sports science and historian
Fernando Arrechea. «An Olympian is one who makes his debut in the Games, in the same way that a soccer player is international if he makes his debut with the national team (even for a second). If he is a substitute and remains on the bench, he is not an international. And although he says that sometimes more “generous” interpretations are read, such as that an Olympian is any athlete who parades in the opening ceremony of the JJ OO, “it is not serious”.

So according to the review carried out by this means, taking into account the database provided by the Spanish Olympic Committee, which
you can also consult its website
, the official books of the Olympic Games, the information of the
OnlyMADMen research group
and the work done by
Arrechea in her doctoral thesis
, 2,499 athletes have competed in a summer Olympic event with Spain. There is one woman for every three men and here we do not count them, but although it may seem that ‘they do not paint anything’, there are three participants in the artistic tests of the Games of 1924 (Josep Clarà i Ayats), 1932 (Ramón de Zubiaurre) and 1948 (Daniel Vázquez) that did make up the official list.

But there are “more or less 2,500 athletes”, as specified before, especially due to the inaccuracies of the early years. Suffice it to name at this point that first Olympic gold medal of the
Spanish pelotaris Francisco Villota and José Amézola
in 1900 that the IOC granted in 2004, based on an investigation initiated by the American Bill Mallon. It was Arrechea, in fact, who rescued their names and stories from oblivion.

So the participants of those early years are the most difficult to corroborate and among the most debated. For example, the international committee, when giving that medal, ‘took’ another silver from the Spanish Pedro Pidal because he had won a financial award, which is not in keeping with the Olympic spirit. Meanwhile, the
he continues to count it in his files. On the other hand, the OnlyMADMen research group and Mallon himself, according to Arrechea, count as Olympians
Luis Antonio De Cuadra and Raoul
(Guatemala, 1847), Marquis of Guadalmina, who participated with Spain in a test of carriages drawn by four horses. However, he would not have been a driver, but an owner. In addition, there was a gift for participating and there were prizes for the most beautiful carriages. That, the researcher explains, invalidates his consideration as an Olympian. The COE does not count it.

So far it can be seen that there are divergences, but there are more. Following the maxim that Arrechea exposes and many historians defend that an Olympian is the one who effectively competes, in the list provided by the COE there are several athletes who did not participate. Some did not make their debut due to injury, such as Alfonso Cano in 1984 or the jumper Conchita Garcia in Montreal 76. Others because they were not aligned with their teams, as happened to the basketball player Pilar Alonso in Barcelona 92 ​​or the warrior Ainhoa ​​Hernandez in Rio 16. “I entered the last game called, but did not play,” recalls the handball player, who in Tokyo has a new opportunity to go out on the court.

Whether or not to step on the track is the question

It is specified in the COE list that an athlete did not start the event (DNS) or that he or she withdrew or did not attend, giving his opponent the winner (W / O). It occurs with 36 names (including those mentioned Alfonso Cano and Conchita García). Of these, in 18 cases it implies that these athletes did not participate in some Games and in the rest, that they did not compete in one of the events they had scheduled, but did in others. Meanwhile, the calculation of the review of those who did not debut amounts to 62 names. Among them the tennis players Emilio Sánchez Vicario and Jorge Bardou Delgado, who appear on the list of the Spanish body because they were in Los Angeles’84. However, tennis was then an exhibition sport and these events are considered “non-Olympic”. Thus, it does not include -the COE does not count them- the nearly one hundred athletes who have participated in different editions in ball, taekwondo or roller hockey.

Regarding those athletes who did not make their debut and who do not have the corresponding epigraph (DNS or W / O), the majority are part of team sports, such as hockey, handball, basketball, football or water polo, or were going to compete in team events , in synchronized swimming or track cycling. This is the case of Pilar Alonso and Ainhoa ​​Hernández. Many times they were the substitutes and on some occasions they did not even travel, whether they were in a team or not. Occurs with the athlete Daniel Poyan, who in 1948 the COE placed in the London Games (in fact the official book marks his name with an asterisk indicating “he also competed”), while the
Royal Spanish Athletics Federation
he assures that he did not travel.

At this point, the tangle of explanation may seem enormous. Explain the EOC that drinks from the IOC information. “These minutes (raports) have the difficulty of collecting information from 1896 to date and the rigor of the information that is reflected in them becomes more complicated the older it is,” they indicate from the Spanish body. With this they point out that “some of these reports have coincided on dates with another world event, which makes it even more difficult to distinguish which events were those of the Olympic Games and which were those of the Universal Exhibition, for example.” This is the case of the aforementioned 1900 quote.

And it is true that other athletes do not appear on the aforementioned list of the Spanish body who did not actually compete, such as the athlete Javi Guerra, who was injured on the plane that took him to Brazil five years ago and could not take part in the marathon. However, according to the review carried out by this newspaper, 57 participants are missing, most of the first editions, but also others that are closer. Among them, the shooter Gemma Usieto in Barcelona 92 ​​and his companions in mixed double trap José Bladas Torras (Olympic diploma) and Rafael Axpe Elejalde. She is also not in the mixed test she played in Seoul 88, in which she finished as the first woman.

Neither are the 1900 rowers Antonio Vela, José Fórmica, Juan Camps, Orestes Quintana and Ricardo Margarit and the fencer Mauricio Álvarez; the 1924 fighters Domingo Sánchez, Eladio Vidal, Francisco Solé and Jordán Rossini; the 1968 footballers Andrés Mendieta, Javier Ciáurriz, José Antonio Barrios, José María Igartua and Ramón Alfonseda; the cyclist Ventura Díaz in 1960 … Closer to our days, the hockey players Pol Amat and Santiago Freixa do not appear, who ended up injured in London 2012, but having debuted.

Consulted by the subject, from the COE They offer their collaboration and assure that, “aware of the possibility of errors”, they are ready to solve them “after the Tokyo Games.” Then we will also have to add to the list all those athletes who make their debut in this edition.

And beyond the numbers, what is it like to be an Olympian? Alfonso Cano, who later became the architect of Madrid’s praised Vallehermoso stadium, used to say that he felt like an Olympian despite not having been able to make his debut in the competition. “I have had the merits to go, I have been chosen …”, assures the former athlete. And he says it supported by “emotional and moral requirements.” Also keep “a sheet that says you have participated in the corresponding Games.” That later the statistics do not include it, he understands it, but says that “that is something else.”

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