The women's handball team, after qualifying for the Games.JOSE JORDAN / AF
P The Spanish teams are loaded with reasons to explain the explosion that allows them to reach their historic peak during the long and tortuous road to the Olympic Games. “We are looking for life. Sports that are not as professionalized as football or basketball are inventors of resources ”, says Carlos Viver, the women's handball coach, who was added to the contingent for the appointment by winning the Pre-Olympic held last weekend in Llíria (Valencia ). “Without a doubt, we are in the golden age of Spanish sport, historically based on the fact that we have the best clubs in the world,” explains Alejandro Blanco, president of the Spanish Olympic Committee (COE).
Never have so many Spanish teams qualified, 11 , for the Games, Barcelona 92 aside, where they competed as hosts. Women's handball joins the men's. Both have credentials that allow them to aspire to the podium in Tokyo: they achieved the silver medal in the 2019 World Cup held precisely in Japan and they revalidated the European title in 2020 . Success and prospects are similar in basketball, water polo, field hockey, gymnastics —to a lesser extent—, sports in which Spain will compete in both categories, in addition to men's soccer. Three teams are still fighting for a place in the Pre-Olympics: women's 3×3 basketball (May 26-29 in Graz, Austria), artistic swimming (May 1-4 in Tokyo) and rhythmic gymnastics (to be determined) . Australia and the United States are the only ones with more than a dozen teams for the next Games, although they may add more depending on the Pre-Olympics.
Several Spanish teams extend their stay in the world elite despite the shortcomings in the club competitions and their financial difficulties. This is the case of the handball leagues, especially the female one. “The clubs must improve in marketing , diffusion and in professionalizing the structures as we have done”, explains Francisco Blázquez, the president of the Spanish Handball Federation. “The classification of the two teams is a success. The female has managed to react after a difficult year and a European [he was ninth, in December 2020] in which perhaps he noticed the absence of Shandy Barbosa. They have solved the Pre-Olympic with solvency and have shown why they are called Guerreras. ”PP Jordi Ribera, the men's handball coach, focuses his efforts on the detection of talents, the most exhaustive and analytical preparation possible of the rivals and the development of a playing style. "Throughout history, the successes of the national team are not necessarily connected with a more or less strong internal competition," he points out. “The most important thing is that players emerge, and take care of them wherever they are. Many of the best have not been in Asobal for a long time, which is what we would like, but, not being the case, what we want is for them to compete in the best possible places, in a good environment. ”PP Frederic Soyez, French from 43 years old, he directs the Spanish men's field hockey team . He says that some of his colleagues ask him, intrigued by the secret of a country that, with just 16,000 licenses, is capable of competing with powers such as Germany, the Netherlands, Australia, with more than 200,000 federated, or India, with half a million. “The success of the national teams is not isolated, and the Spanish athlete has character and professionalism. There is a good foundation. We know what there is and we try to maximize our chances, ”says the team's technical manager, fifth in Rio 2016 and runner-up in Europe in 2019. The women's team coach, Dutchman Adrian Lock, believes that culture should be harnessed of clubs, with much family roots, existing in this sport and also in water polo, which partly counteracts the disadvantage of being minority sports. “The level is high. There is a high level of references, of technical-tactical input ”, affirms the head of a team that was eighth in Rio and that chained the bronze medals in the 2018 World Cup and in the 2019 European Championship.
Blanco observes a common denominator in the success achieved by the Spanish teams: “Competitiveness and the great spirit of sacrifice characterize our athletes. They know how to put individual quality at the service of the team, something that other countries, due to their DNA or whatever, cannot. The key to success is mindset. And when it comes to competing, there are no differences between the so-called professionals and the so-called amateurs. ”
Basketball teams maintain their excellence. In the men's category, gold at the last World Cup in 2019 was his 11th medal in major tournaments since the 2006 World Cup in Japan. In the women's category, Spain has won the Olympic silver in Rio, the World bronze in 2018 and two golds in the Europeans in 2017 and 2019.
Volleyball demands more resources
The volleyball team has only competed twice in the Games, in 1992 and in 2000, and will be absent again in Tokyo. "After football, it is the most popular sport in the world", warns the president of the Spanish federation, Agustín Martín. “The national team represents Spain, not the federation, and that is why it should have more financial support from the administrations. And they must pay before, not based on the results. That said, it is no excuse. We will be doing something wrong. ”
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