Events & Meetings

Garcia hits all the right notes


Diego Garcia won 10,000m race-walking gold for Spain at the European Athletics Junior Championships in Eskilstuna on Saturday morning - and the triumph was music to his ears.

When Garcia, 19, is not pounding his way around a track, he is playing the trombone as part of his studies at the renowned Madrid Royal Conservatory College.

So, does he have the instrument here in Sweden to entertain his teammates? 'No, it was too expensive to bring on the aeroplane,' he said.

But when he returns home, he has something as precious to declare, the gold medal he has spent all year working towards and as he said: 'Coming here and winning at this championship is the best result in my athletics career.'

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Garcia, the world junior runner-up, led from the start, closely followed by Russian pair Vladislav Saraykin and Vasiliy Mizinov.

At halfway, there was nothing to choose between them, with Garcia first in 20:12.20, but within 1000m the race changed direction as the Spanish walker moved away and then Mizinov was disqualified.

He gradually stretched his lead to win in a season's best of 40:05.21 from Saraykin in 40:59.28, who came back strong in the final 100m to overtake Garcia's Spanish teammate and training partner Pablo Oliva who was third - and a delighted third in that - in 41:00.73.

Saraykin said: 'I wanted to be first but I am satisfied with a good time.'

While Oliva said: 'This is incredible. I am really happy with bronze and a personal best. The second half of the race was good and the track was perfect.'

It was some race, though, as of the 25 finishers, there were 16 personal best performances, including four national junior records.

Those national marks were set by France's Jean Blancheteau, fourth (41:14.75), Callum Wilkinson, of Great Britain, seventh (41:34.63), Türkiye's Muratcan Karapinar, eighth (41:58.07), and Andrei Gafita, of Romania, who was 15th (42:49.57).

But it was so much Garcia's morning, with his victory smile starting on the home straight as he raised his right hand in celebration before repeating the act as he crossed the line.

He waited for Oliva and then both grabbed national flags to go on their lap of honour.

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His victory justifies his decision to leave life as a runner for a pursuit of greater glory as a walker.

Garcia said: 'I was 14 when I started race-walking. I wanted to travel to a national championship and in Madrid they did not have any good race-walkers.

'I liked to run cross-country and steeplechase but I was not that good. I was 10th in the national championships and I thought I would try race walking.

'I train in Madrid with Pablo, every day, very hard, thinking for this day and that is why we are so happy.

'I study business and music at college. I do a professional degree and I have been playing in the conservatory for 10 years.'

But the only tune he was left waiting to hear was that of the Spanish national anthem - saluting the country's newest athletics gold medallist.

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