Two years ago, Spain’s Miguel Angel Lopez experienced one of the greatest moments of his life when he won 20km gold at the European Race Walking Cup on the roads close of home in Murcia.
His victory came with a brilliant performance, as he made the break at 9km and savoured the noise and celebrations of the crowd, a triumph which was just the start of an amazing summer where he went on to be crowned world champion in Beijing.
Turn the clock forward two years and Lopez will be looking for a repeat double in the months ahead, beginning with him leading the Spanish 20km team for this year’s European Race Walking Cup in Podebrady on 21 May.
And what a strong men’s team it is, with Lopez joined by Alvaro Martin and Luis Alberto Amezcua, the two men who finished in front of him at last week’s national championships in Merida.
It is not often that Lopez suffers defeat, but to lose to fellow Spaniards will be a warning to the rest that when it comes to the team prize – let alone the individual positions – they are going to be immensely strong. They will also be joined by Diego Garcia Carrera, who was disqualified in Merida.
Lopez has a superb record at the European Race Walking Cup, where his gold in 2015 followed his 20km silver in 2013, his 2011 team gold and, as an 18-year-old, his second over 10km in Leamington in 2007.
But with such a strong line-up, Spain will be determined to make the podium this time, after finishing fourth in 2015 behind Germany, Russia and the Ukraine.
Lidia Sanchez-Puebla heads the women’s 20km bid for glory, after her national championship success last Sunday in 1:30:57, and she is joined by Laura Garcia-Caro and Maria Perez, who were second and third respectively in that race, and Amanda Caro.
Over 50km, the men’s senior team is Francisco Arcilla, Luis Corchete, Ivan Pajuelo and Benjamin Sanchez; over 10km, the junior men’s team is Kevin Cerro, Pedro Conesa and Jose Perez; and over 10km, the women’s junior team is Antia Chamosa, Irene Montejo and Marina Pena.