The worst week of Spanish canoeing ended this Sunday in Trasona (Asturias) with the presence of only four of the six paddlers of the team (Saúl Craviotto, Marcus Cooper, Carlos Arévalo, Rodrigo Germade). Carlos Arévalo again won both runs of the K1-200 ahead of Craviotto, Cooper and Germade. Carlos Garrote and Cristian Toro were not there. Both confirmed their presence on Friday in a mail to the Federation. On Saturday night, however, they warned that they would not go to the Trasona race course. They are still on medical leave. Toro decided to back up while in the car on the way to Trasona after talking it over with his psychologist. The Federation explained in a statement on Friday that, after the tests this Sunday, it would prepare a report to choose and communicate the ownership of K4, one of the medal options in the Tokyo Games. The selection is right now a tinderbox.
The internal process to choose the K1-200 and K4-500 that will compete in the Tokyo Games began on Thursday the 4th and should have been completed on the 11th. It dragged on amid a storm caused by the allegations of tampering by Carlos Garrote and the former federative president Juan Román Mangas. Garrote maintains that in the first set of runs planned for the K4-500 his teammates were slower with him on the boat to knock him out of the Games. The companions he refers to are Craviotto, Arevalo and Toro; he himself chose them to form one of the three possible combinations of the K4-500. When asked in his day who he wanted to row with, he chose those three companions and refused to share a boat with Marcus Cooper. “I don’t trust him,” he said.
The other two boats are made up of Craviotto-Cooper-Arévalo-Toro and Craviotto-Cooper-Arévalo-Germade (the one that was runner-up in the world in 2019 in Szeged, the last World Cup that was contested). Of the six planned runs (the one that wins two would be chosen to compete in the Games) only four have been played. Garrote and Toro filed a medical discharge on Tuesday and halted the selection process amid allegations of fixing.
The Federation decided that this Sunday they would compete behind closed doors to prevent another media circus from being mounted like this week’s. It has been 10 days of tests suspended, resumed for a day, suspended again. There have been 10 days in which there has been a visit to the emergency room for a nervous breakdown (that of Garrote, according to Toro, who accompanied him to the hospital), medical leave, complaints to the Higher Sports Council (CSD), leaks of private audios, writings and lawsuits by the lawyers of Miguel García, the coach, and Saúl Craviotto, captain of the national team and standard-bearer at the opening ceremony of the Games that begin on July 23.
On Thursday 4 Carlos Arévalo won the two scheduled runs to choose the paddler who would compete in the K1-200. Spain has classified eight canoeists for four tests, but in these Games the IOC has limited places to six, so the Federation has had to make internal selectives to make two discards in the K1-200 and K4- tests. 500. The level of Spanish canoeing is so high that they had to organize some trials like world powers (the United States in swimming or athletics, for example).
Arévalo, who in 2016 was left out of the Rio Games after losing the internal selectives for the K2-200, won the two tests that started on Thursday 4 ahead of Saúl Craviotto and the rest of his teammates (Carlos Garrote, Cristian Toro –Specialists in speed- and Marcus Cooper and Rodrigo Germade –specialists in longer distances). The only option that Garrote y Toro had, like the rest, to participate in the Tokyo Games was, therefore, to get a place in the K4-500. The times, which the Federation agreed not to be made public like the selective ones of previous years – in which not even the paddlers had knowledge of the times – appeared published to the surprise of the coach, Miguel García. The difference of 3.8 seconds with which the K4-500 of Craviotto-Cooper-Arévalo-Germade won the first round of shots led the coach to summon the athletes to find out what had happened in the tests, if the cold had influenced , water and track hardness, muscle activation, etc. It is a type of meeting that is usually held to analyze time differences and career circumstances; but this time it turned into a game of leaks and accusations of manipulation before it even started.
Garrote hinted that the tests were rigged and that his teammates slowed down with him on the boat to slow down and keep him out of the Games. The same day that his print run ended, however, he said that the internal selection process would be “fair and legal” and celebrated that that day “everyone went home satisfied that they had not left even a shred of reserve force” . Four days later (on Monday) he sent a WhatsApp message to some journalists saying that the selection process had been intervened and he tried to convince Toro that his colleagues were harming them. “If you go out tomorrow [el día que le tocaba la segunda tirada]You accept defeat, if you don’t go out, it is proven that they have robbed us, ”he said according to a witness.
The Federation, after canceling the tests on Tuesday, decided that the tests had to continue to be played and that this week the starting boat should have been chosen for the Games, for which there are only four and a half months left. And yet, only one more roll was made. That of the Craviotto-Cooper-Arévalo-Germade, the one that in the first test had signed the best time. They are the only ones, despite the previous tensions and despite spending nights without shutting an eye like the rest of the team, who showed up at the starting line. Garrote and Toro sent medical casualties in which they certified that they could not compete due to a stress condition and because they were not mentally or physically fit to perform. Meanwhile, the Fluvial Club of Vigo, to which Toro belongs, sent a report to the CSD with the analysis of the test times and a letter to the Federation with a formal complaint about the selection process.
Disrespect and threats
The Federation announced on Friday afternoon that this Sunday there would be two runs of the K1-200 and that after these tests it would prepare a report to choose the K4-500 since the preparation for the Games has had enough braking. The tests of the K4-500 that were suspended due to the medical losses of Toro and Garrote will not be repeated. It is unfeasible that the tests can be carried out normally after the tensions accumulated during the week, the accusations of tampering, the leaks of private conversations secretly recorded in the corridors of the Trasona technification center and in the meetings with the technician. Even Craviotto’s lawyers have intervened, warning Garrote in writing that publishing these audios is a crime. Garrote’s objective, according to some in the national team, is precisely to lengthen the processes in order to challenge them. If the Assembly of the new president, Pedro Pablo Barrios, does not approve the budgets this Sunday, everything could be stopped again.
The tensions that accompanied the selective since the K4-500 led by Craviotto got world silver in Szeged suddenly exploded on Monday, turning the team into a powder keg. Witnesses present at the meetings held by Miguel García, the coach, with the six paddlers, report having heard disrespect and threats.