Spanish athletes fail to raise the roof

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Valencia World Indoor Championships produce only one medal for host nation

10 March 2008

VALENCIA - Spain's track and field athletes underperformed this weekend, winning only one bronze medal in the men's 1,500-metre race at the 2008 Indoor World Championships in Valencia.

One of the biggest disappointments was undoubtedly Josephine Onyia, who on leading the heat tripped over the last hurdle of the 60-metre race to come in last place. Thanks to the unfortunate blunder by Onyia, who was in tears after the race, Lolo Jones of the United States won the gold, running the second-fastest time of her career in 7.80 seconds.

Spain's only medal came in the 1,500 metres, where Juan Carlos Higuero beat his countryman Arturo Casado to win the bronze with a time of 3.38.82.

Both Spanish runners were no match for Deresse Mekonnen of Ethiopia and Kenyan Daniel Komen, who won the gold and silver, respectively, although Mekonnen had to be reinstated after an original disqualification for stepping off the track.

Mayte Martínez was considered another Spanish medal chance, but her hopes were dashed in the final of the 800 metres by legendary Mozambican runner Maria Mutola. Martínez trailed in the first two laps but then made a dash for the head of the pack before fading.

Tamsyn Lewis of Australia won the gold in a time of 2.02.57, with Ukrainian Tetiana Petlyuk winning the silver. Martínez, outdoor world bronze medallist, finished in 2.03.51.

Spanish long jumper Concepción Montanar was another to express disappointment over her performance. She ended in fifth place with a leap of 6.57 metres, behind Naide Gomes of Portugal, who won with a 7.00-metre leap. Gomes was followed by Maurren Higa Maggi of Brazil and Irina Simagina of Russia. In the 3,000-metre race Spain's Sergio Sánchez came in eighth place with a time of 7.59.93, about 10 seconds behind Ethiopia's Tariku Bekele who won the gold.

Another Spaniard who came close to winning a medal was Ruth Beitia in the high jump, but she ended in fourth place with a jump of 1.99 metres. The event was won by Croatian Blanka Vlasic, who cleared 2.03 metres.

One of the biggest surprises in the championships was a spectacular comeback by British Dwain Chambers in the 60-metre dash after losing to Nigerian Olusoji Fasuba (6.51 seconds). Chambers tied with Kim Collins of St. Kitts & Nevis with a time of 6.45 seconds for second place.

The British athlete suffered a two-year suspension for doping in 2003, when he was stripped of the 4 x 100 metre silver medal in the 2003 World Championships.

On the overall medal table, the US came in first place with five golds, five silvers and three bronzes. The US was followed by Russia (5/4/3), Ethiopia (3/1/2), UK (1/4/0) and Cuba (1/1/1), South Africa (1/1/0), Sweden (1/1/0) and Australia (1/0/1). Spain came back in 24th place with just Higuero's bronze.

[Copyright EL PAÍS 2008]

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