Hortelano makes history for Spain

Hortelano makes history for Spain
Getty Images

Bruno Hortelano couldn't believe he had won 200m gold on Friday evening in Amsterdam.

It was one of those priceless moments in sport when an athlete who thinks he has won silver is told he is, in fact, European champion.

Bruno Hortelano was in the mixed zone being interviewed when a journalist told him about the disqualification of the winner, Churandy Martina of the host country.

First came a look of complete disbelief, then the Spaniard turned and hared off to confirm the news from his team officials. It was indeed true and after having completed a lap of honour thinking he was in silver, he was now champion of Europe.

With silver, the 24 year had already made Spanish athletics history. Now after 20 minutes even that history was already being rewritten. No one in the history of his country had ever medalled in a sprint event. Now he had claimed the ultimate prize.

Much fuss was made three years ago when Hortelano reached the semis at the world championships in Moscow. But after this gold medal the Spanish media have gone into overdrive.

It came on an evening when Spain had confirmed it was back as a driving force in European athletics after a heady succession of medals. First came Sergio Fernandez snatching silver in the 400m hurdles; after the 200m final Toni Abadia earned a well worked bronze in the 10,000m. All of this capped with Hortelano’s gold for a full set.

Coming off the back of Ruth Beitia’s third European gold medal the day before, suddenly Spanish colours were standing proudly in the breeze.

Hortelano’s story is a lesson for our times. Obliged to move to Australia for professional reasons, his parents brought Bruno into the world in Wallongong, Australia in 1991.

Work next took them across the Pacific to Canada where at the age of eight Hortelano was introduced to athletics as well as American football. Fortunately the athletics stuck: “I am passionate about it,” he explained. “I love going fast and improving objectively on my performances. Also, I’m good at it.”

Apart from Friday’s gold, Hortelano has set three Spanish records this summer: two in the 100m on a single evening in Madrid two weeks ago (10.08 and 10.06). And in Amsterdam he shaved his own 200m benchmark from Moscow by 0.08 leaving it at 20.39 in the semis into a headwind.

As he crossed the line in the final here in Amsterdam he threw his arms wide in celebration, aware he had got a medal but no idea which: “I just run my race and concentrate on myself,” he noted. “I ran a good bend and kept going to the end.” He was not even aware of Martina on his outside.

He put his record in the semi-final (into a –1.1 wind) down to the fact he was relaxed. The next task was clear in his head: “The key is who recovers best for the final.

The presence of his parents and girlfriend in the stands helped him and as he crossed the line he was in tears. Then came the news that he had won gold and his joy was complete.