Tokyo, Aug 6 (EFE).- At 5.30 a.m. Friday, after starting in the 50-kilometer Tokyo 2020 race walk final for the eighth time in Sapporo, Spain’s Jesus Angel Garcia Bragado broke the men’s and women’s record for Olympic participations in athletics.
Until Friday, Garcia Bragado was tied at seven with Jamaican-Slovenian sprinter Merlene Ottey.
“I would have liked to do much better,” he said. “But you have to accept age and now a new life begins.”
Garcia Bragado had words of gratitude for the Spanish Federation.
“I have to thank them for doing everything possible so that I could be here despite the fact that I am almost 52 and that I have not been able to plan like a young boy, because I had to save my performance for (the Olympics),” he said.
Garcia Bragado said he arrived in Tokyo knowing he “had deficiencies” in his preparation. “And that’s why you have to accept it. I think you have to understand why it is time to retire.”
At 51, Garcia Bragado, who was world champion in Stuttgart in 1993, is leaving with the 50 kilometer race walk event itself, which has been removed from the official athletics program beyond Tokyo 2020.
Bragado made his debut as an Olympian at the Barcelona 92 games with a 10th place finish and has not missed an edition since, always in the same kilometer event.
He retired from the race in Atlanta 96, in Sydney 2000 he was 12th, in Athens 2004 he came fifth, fourth in Beijing 2008 – the best result of all Spanish athletes – and 17th in London 2012 at 42, then 20th in Rio 2016.
No athlete in the world has had such a long Olympic career and only four, counting all disciplines, surpass him, three with nine participations and one, Canada’s Ian Millar, with 10.
Tokyo will mark the end of his record career and launch him into the restricted “club” of athletes who pushed beyond their limits, who managed to combine physical and mental strength to prolong their elite careers for almost 30 years.
“Now that I am doing my last training sessions, many memories come to my mind of places where I have trained and competed, not since I was a walker, but since I started doing athletics in the streets of Madrid,” he said in a recent interview with EFE. “Those memories take a new place that I had forgotten.”
The absolute record of participation in the Olympic Games belongs to Millar, who competed in ten editions of equestrian events. He started his Olympic career in Munich 1972 and finished it in London 2012.
He only missed the 1980 Moscow Games, boycotted by his country. His best result was silver in the team jump at Beijing 2008.
The Canadian rider, known in his country as “Captain Canada,” finished his career in London at 65. EFE