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Glasgow coming into sight for Ortega after bronze in Berlin

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In the explosion of speed in the men’s 60m hurdles final at the Belgrade 2017 European Athletics Indoor Championships, Spain’s Orlando Ortega put himself in with a great chance of a medal.

He made a good start, his fluency over the barriers was fine but in the end he finished seventh, beaten for pace of the final flight in a high quality race in which the margins were so narrow. Ortega ran 7.64 while Great Britain’s Andrew Pozzi won in 7.51. It was that close. Half a blink of an eye and you would missed it.

In March next year, Pozzi will not only be the defending champion but will be in front of a British crowd at the Glasgow 2019 European Athletics Indoor Championships, the event returning to Scotland’s biggest city for the first time since 1990.

Now it is the Emirates Arena, then it was at the Kelvin Hall and almost three decades on, it is interesting to note how this event has reached something of a peak. The champion back in 1990 was Igors Kazanovs of the Soviet Union, victorious in a time of 7.51, just a shade quicker than Pozzi’s winning time in Belgrade.

But for now, times are probably not foremost in the mind of those counting down towards Glasgow. It is all about the build up, hoping this key period of winter training goes as hoped and one man very much in that mould is Ortega.

“Yes, we have it planned, we will prepare for it with enthusiasm, with a lot of encouragement,” Ortega told RFEA in a recent in-depth interview. “What will happen? We do not know, if we have a good winter season we will be in Glasgow, it will depend on the results, on how I am.

“I would be interested and I would like to participate. It is a very important competition not only for me, but also for the Spanish federation.”

Belgrade was Ortega’s first major indoor championship representing Spain and his first European medal came just a few months ago in Berlin. He won bronze in the 110m hurdles behind France’s Pascal Martinot-Lagarde and Sergey Shubenkov who both stopped the clock at 13.17 but Ortega wasn’t entirely satisfied with a medal of that particular hue.

Just days later, Ortega won the Birmingham Diamond League in a season’s best of 13.08 which left him dwelling on what might have been in Berlin. “I'm much happier with the time, but I am a little angry because if I ran like this at the European Championships I would have won gold,” he said.

Even so, there is little doubting his speed and ability for the big occasions, having won Olympic silver in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 behind Jamaica’s Omar McLeod.

His presence in Glasgow would mean another star name for the biggest athletics event of the winter and a chance for Ortega to push for his first major title. “Every athlete in a final wants to win the gold medal, it is a wish, a dream,” he said.

Looking back on 2018, he added: “It has been a spectacular season, from the beginning to the end.

“(I was) well prepared both physically and mentally, we decided not to participate indoors to prepare well and recover well from old injuries, we have done very well.”

He is now coached again by his father, Orlando Snr, who had coached him until he was 15 and then guided him to his Olympic silver medal. “We have managed to combine what it is to be a coach-athlete with what is father-son. We understand each other very well. We are both super content,” he said.

A contentment which might just have a golden seal to it by the time the winter is over.

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