Spanish athletes set winning trend
Spain's Olympic hopes soar after recent championship victories suggest that increased investments and better athlete training are paying off.
A cheer rose from Madrid's Plaza de San Andrés on Sunday as cycling fans, gathered around televisions, watched native son Carlos Sastre coast around Paris's Arc de Triomphe to win the Tour de France. But the ovation was polite compared to the roar that greeted Rafael Nadal's Wimbledon victory two weeks earlier or the raucous all-night party ignited by Spain's soccer team when it claimed the European Cup on June 29. Spain, it seems, is getting accustomed to winning.Skip to next paragraph
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With this impressive string of victories, Spain has emerged as an international sports powerhouse. Indeed, in 2007, Spanish athletes competing in Olympic Federation sports won 66 medals in international competitions and 114 in European ones, up from 21 and 22, respectively, in 2003. Spain is now readying for unprecedented performances at the Olympics.
"In June and July we have had two months without comparison in our history," Jaime Lissavetzky, secretary of state for sports, said at a press conference Sunday. "It proves that there are many high-level athletes in this country, and it could be a good omen for the Olympics."
Indeed, the past two months encompass an impressive list of triumphs. Mr. Sastre is the third Spaniard in a row to win the Tour de France. Mr. Nadal's defeat of the No. 1-ranked Roger Federer at Wimbledon came after he crushed the Swiss player at the French Open just two months earlier. On Sunday, Nadal positioned himself to replace Mr. Federer as the top-ranked player in the world when he won the Canadian Masters in Toronto. Meanwhile, in its European cup win, the first since the country became a democracy, Spain easily outplayed the usually powerful Germany.
Golfer Miguel Ángel Jiménez tied for fifth at The Masters in April, and last week Sergio García contended until late in golf's latest major, the British Open at Birkdale. Motorcycle champion Dani Pedrosa and Formula One superstar Fernando Alonso also deserve mention.