Ski mountaineering produces medal surge for Spain at Lausanne 2020

LAUSANNE, Jan 15 – Spain had never won a medal at a Winter Youth Olympic Games. Then along came four at once at Lausanne 2020, all bar one in the newly introduced sport of ski mountaineering.

A country famous for prowess in sports such as football and tennis, the mind perhaps turns less to Spain’s mountains, ski slopes and winter sports. But perhaps it should.

Less than 24 hours after speed skater Nil Llop Izquierdo took silver in the men’s 500m event in St. Moritz on Sunday, Maria Costa Diez added to the Spanish breakthrough with gold in the skimo women’s sprint, followed a few minutes later by bronze from compatriot Ot Ferrer Martinez in the men’s. Continuing the roll in Tuesday’s mixed relay, the team of Costa Diez, Marc Radua Ivern, Ares Torra Gendrau and Ferrer Martinez took another bronze for Spain.

“We are the four from Catalonia and we train together at La Masella and La Molina in the Pyrenees mountains,” Costa Diez said of her ski mountaineering teammates. “To the people of Catalonia, thanks for encouraging us. We are the best.”

Costa Diez, Ferrer Martinez and Torra Gendrau all come from the town of Berga and have been training together for more than five years as part of the Mountain Runners of Bergueda Club.

A large group of club members, family and friends have travelled to Lausanne to cheer on the youth Olympians. They included 10-year-old Aina Garreta, who hopes to emulate the medal-winning athletes herself one day.

“We can do it,” she said.

Spanish ski mountaineers (right) on the podium with the Swiss (centre) and French teams (left) | Jed Leicester for OISphotos.com

The surge of Spanish success may have come as a surprise to some, but to the athletes, they are just continuing the tradition of their mountainous region.

The province in northeast Spain has played a rich role in the country’s sporting fortunes over the decades and Radua Ivern believes his sport can become part of a long-term winning tradition in the region.

“Young people from around Spain can see what we four have done and will want to train in Catalonia” he said.

“I want to tell the people of Catalonia to taste this sport. It is magic and it gives us a great chance to succeed.”

OIS sb/sw/sg/kc

By Olympic Information Service

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