Ortega aiming to finally find the Midas touch in Tokyo

Orlando Ortega on his way to victory at the 2019 European Team Championships Super League
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Orlando Ortega has an impressive CV, including a Rio 2016 Olympic Games silver medal as well as bronze medals from the last two major international championships, the Berlin 2018 European Athletics Championships and World Athletics Championships Doha 2019.

However, the one honour this that is missing from the Spanish hurdler’s list of accolades is a victory on the really big occasion.

He has numerous Diamond League 110m hurdles victories to his name, including in Lausanne this year when he ran 13.05 in the Pontaise Stadium, the fastest time of the year by a European, and was also victorious for Spain over the barriers at the last two European Athletics Team Championships, but a triumph on the global stage has eluded him so far.

However, in Tokyo, with winning at next summer’s Paris 2020 European Athletics Championships gently inscribed into his training diary as Plan B, Ortega aims to correct that omission.

Spurred on by the unusual circumstances of his bronze medal in Doha little more than two months ago, he has discovered a renewed sense of purpose ahead of next summer.

In the Doha final, he was running in lane five, one lane to the outside of 2016 Olympic champion Omar McLeod, and fully engaged in the battle for silver and bronze.

However, McLeod stumbled and fell, badly impeding Ortega who crossed the line in fifth place and with bitter disappointment etched all over his face.

The Spanish federation then went into battle for its athlete and pleaded his case with Ortega, after overnight discussions, being eventually awarded a joint bronze medal – his place in the race at the time McLeod careered into his path – along with France’s Pascal Martinot-Lagarde.

“When I heard the news (that he had been awarded a medal) I had a mixture of overwhelming emotions, I couldn’t believe it but I was getting text messages from all sorts of people telling me what had happened, then it was just a rush to get to the stadium in time for the medal ceremony,” reflected Ortega.

“I just jumped in a taxi. For 24 hours I didn’t know what was going on, I was just on my own, but I have to say thanks to the federation for fighting for me and thanks to everyone across Spain with all their messages of support.

“Now I just want to reward everyone in Spain by returning from Tokyo with a gold medal,” he promised, after being his country’s only medallist in Doha.

To help Ortega achieve his aims, European Athletics Green Inspiration Partner Mondo are collaborating with him and installing a sprint lane at his regular training venue in Valencia, the Estadi del Turia in the centre of the Mediterranean city, with exactly the same Mondotrack WS surface that has been installed in the Tokyo New National Stadium, which will be the centrepiece of the next Olympic Games.

“The feeling I get when I am training on this type of surface, this Mondo track, is one of great confidence. I always train here (in the Estadi del Turia) and it gives me a real sense of security and confidence.

“I know that I will be running on one of the best surfaces in the world. A track like this helps so much in training to develop your power and your energy. It’s all about energy, and your power to transmit it when you race.

“The key is balancing power, energy, strength and above all speed, and that’s exactly what this new athletics track imparts,” commented Ortega, upon hearing the news that he was going to be in the privileged position of being able to train on the same surface that he will race on in the Japanese capital.

All that Ortega, who last year had a busy indoor season which saw him race in no less than nine indoor meetings including finishing fourth at the European Athletics Indoor Championships in Glasgow, now needs is to stay healthy and have a bit of luck in the form of the men next to him staying upright as they duel for places on the podium at this summer's major championships.