The last time the K4-500 competed, you did not have to do a tropomil PCR before catching a plane; there was also a direct flight to Budapest and the stands in Szeged were packed with fans. Because the canoeing track of the small Hungarian town a few kilometers from the border with Serbia is what San Mamés is to football. By atmosphere and by tradition. The last time the K4-500 led by Saúl Craviotto and made up of Marcus Cooper, Carlos Arévalo and Rodrigo Germade competed was in August 2019. Before the pandemic tsunami. “I had already wanted to give cane!”. Arévalo’s phrase is possibly the best summary of the last 20 months lived by the boat trained by Miguel García.
This Sunday they have won gold in the World Cup. With a stroke of authority, with an excellent start and dominating the test from start to finish with the pace imposed by Saúl Craviotto, the brand of the boat. The noise of the water, the breathing and the paddles of nine boats becomes so intense that it is as if suddenly a platoon of 500 cyclists arrives and destroys everything. Spain has defeated the almighty Germany (+, 0.65) and Belarus (+1.78) and thus presents its candidacy for Olympic gold in Tokyo. In the last two World Cups, they had always lagged behind the Germans.
“I’m trying to do what we have done,” Cooper said on the track, still not breathing again. “We made a great start and this victory is very, very important on a mental level between now and the Games,” added the one who was gold in Rio2016 in the K1-1000. To improve that output, precisely, the K4-500 made modifications to the canoe to better distribute the weights, have a better start and not lose acceleration in the final section.
The one this Sunday in Szeged is the only competition in which the K4-500 will participate between now and the Olympic event. They have won it by dominating from start to finish and have taken a weight off their shoulders. With a stroke of the pen they have erased the tension accumulated in recent months. “We have not competed for almost two years. We need to have an international touch ”, explained García the week before flying to Hungary.
It seems that a century has passed since that 2019 world silver with which they sealed the classification for the Games. They would not suspect that the Olympic cycle would turn into a nightmare. In sprinting, the rules oblige to take only six paddlers to the Tokyo Games when the tests in which they compete include eight in the men’s category (K1-200, K1-1000, K2-1000 and K4-500). The Federation, therefore, had to make two discards. The process dragged on in time and got muddy because former federal president Juan Román Mangas and Carlos Garrote accused their colleagues and the technician of rigging the process to leave Garrote out. The selective ones became a powder keg and delayed the preparation towards the Games.
“After the selective, a work cycle was planned until this World Cup. It was necessary to adjust and modify the deadlines a bit because there were days of great tension [Craviotto llegó a perder cuatro kilos de masa muscular] in which he could not train as he should. We adjusted as we went, ”analyzes Miguel García, the technician. It started from scratch with analytics and aerobic work and a concentration of ten days in Portugal, far from Trasona headquarters. And from there you had to spin very fine. “In order not to overcondition the set-up of the Games. It is complicated, a puzzle. I try to adjust the loads and there are times when we have to tweak things on the fly more than usual. But things are going well for the moment ”, said the coach before the World Cup.
The selective ones forced to have two peaks of forms in nine months (from January to August). “As much as I am prudent in the preparation, as the athletes played their place in the selective in March, a very important set-up had to be made, especially on a mental level. That was very early in time and that implies taking many risks in preparation for the Games. The period between the selective [marzo ] and this World Cup is complicated because we had to be able to get here and be in a more or less optimal shape. It is a preparation competition, it was not worth coming to have a stick put into us and condition us on a mental level for the Games. On the other hand, we could not force too much because we already have a previous set-up like the selective one that other countries have not had ”, analyzes García, whose only fear was that this mental overexertion would rebound without warning in the coming weeks .
At the moment it seems to have worked as an extra motivational bonus. Two months after the powder keg, the K4-500 has presented its candidacy to reach the top of the Olympic podium. The last medal of a K4 in the Games is from Montreal 1976. It was the silver in the 1,000 meters of the pioneers of this sport: Herminio Menéndez, Luis Misioné, José Ramón Díaz Flor and Chema Celorrio.