At just 16 years old, Maria Vicente Garcia managed to become the heptathlon youth world champion. While the event isn’t part of the sport programme for the Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires, the Spaniard mentioned which disciplines she would like to be a protagonist in while competing against the best young athletes on the planet.
“I imagine the Games as really fun and entertaining, with lots of people, a very good atmosphere. I really hope to be able to enjoy it".
There’s a name in Spanish athletics that attracts attention. In mid-2017 Maria Vicente Garcia became the world champion in heptathlon at a tournament in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital city.
“It was all a surprise. I hadn’t trained to get where I did. I never thought I was going to go home with a world champion medal”, said the young athlete.
The heptathlon is an event that combines seven athletics disciplines: 100 metres hurdles, high jump, hammer throw, 200 metres, long jump, javelin and 800 metres.
While this combination of events won’t be part of the programme at the Youth Olympic Game, many of the events that comprise it will be, giving Vicente Garcia hopes of being a protagonist at 2018.
“We are still analysing what event we are going to go for. What I know is that the competition level is going to be high with really good athletes from all over the world.
“I’m going to give it my best and enjoy it like I’ve done other times. If things turn out like that last time, I’ll be really happy and proud. If not, I’ll keep working to get to the top”, she added.
As her past record confirms, the events in which she has the most potential are the jumps, hurdles and the 200 metres. With six Spanish youth national records, Maria shone in Nairobi with 6.05 metres in long jump, 1.73 metres in high jump, an extraordinary time of 24.00 in 200 metres and 13.74 in 100 metres hurdles.
“My participation at the Games still has to be confirmed, but it is, by far, one of my biggest goals for 2018”, said the daughter of a Spanish mother and Cuban father.
In the world of Spanish athletics, Vicente Garcia is considered the next Ruth Beitia, Olympic champion in high jump at Rio 2016.
Beyond the promising present, the young athlete is calm about qualifying for Buenos Aires 2018. But, she can’t stop thinking about what it would be like to visit the Argentine capital this October.
“The Youth Olympic Games seem like they are going to be spectacular, with a really good atmosphere. The fact that they are going to be in South America makes is really exciting for me because I’ve wanted to go there since I was little and it’s great that it’s in Buenos Aires. That’s a really exciting spot,” she said.
The Barcelona native – she was born and raised in L’Hospitalet, located just six kilometres from the Catalonian capital - doesn’t lack role models.
“My idols are the decathlete Ashton Eaton (Olympic champion at London 2012 and Rio 2016) and Usain Bolt. At the Spanish level, my role models are Ruth Beitia, who always fought to become an Olympic champion, and Jorge Urena, a Spanish decathlete who I admire a lot”.
At 11 years old, Vincente Garcia started athletics and her desire to do various disciplines paved the way for her.
“I started with the discipline because the moment came to decide what event I wanted to do and I couldn’t decide. That seemed boring and monotonous and so I opted to start on the heptathlon…and well, that’s where I am now”, she remembered.
Her days are spent between training and school. How does she manage both activities? “During the week I live at the Sant Cugat High Performance Centre in Barcelona. I get up at 7:50, I get to the institute and have three classes and finish at 10:50. At 11:30 I go to train. After eating I go to my room and rest a bit and then at 15:15 I return to the institute for another three classes until 17:45, and when I leave I have something to eat. At seven I train again although I only do the double shift on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday. After training I have dinner and go to my room to study, call my mom and family, watch a bit of TV and then sleep”, explained the young athlete.
Under the supervision of Fernando Martinez, her coach, Maria Vicente Garcia is currently experiencing a great moment in her short career. And at the start of 2018 she’s already imagining what it would be like to be part of Buenos Aires 2018.
“I imagine the Games as really fun and entertaining, with lots of people, a very good atmosphere. I really hope to be able to enjoy it, in addition to the European U18 Championship”, said the Spanish athletics star.
Athletics at Buenos Aires 2018 will have 38 events, divided in equal numbers of men and women, with 680 athletes in total. There will be 10 track events and eight field events, with cross country making its debut at the Games.
The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) will base the qualifications for the Games on the young athletes’ participation in the most recent U18 World Championships, and the global ranking for each discipline in accordance with the quota presented by each Olympic Committee to the International Federation.