After her unforgettable victory in 2016 at the Rio Games, the Cantabrian jumper will experience a special moment by giving up her throne in Tokyo
It was five years ago. Four athletes played for Olympic gold in the high jump final. After breaking the bar over 1.97, Ruth Beitia has an advantage – without zero – over the Croatian Blanka Vlasic, the American Chauté Lowe and the Bulgarian Mirela Demireva. And since no one crosses two meters, the glory goes to the Cantabrian jumper, the first Olympic champion of Spanish athletics. Now, in the Tokyo event of 2021, Beitia will give up its scepter, it will have a successor, but that unforgettable moment of the Rio Games will remain forever.
– How does Ruth Beitia experience the arrival of a new Olympic event?
– I live it expectantly. At the sporting level, it is time to pass the baton, it is time for there to be a new Olympic champion, who due to this pandemic has cost one more year to give up the scepter. And I live it expectantly because of the feeling that we have no idea of what we are going to be able to see, of what the athletes are going to feel. Also with the feeling that I will have a lot of hours to be able to watch athletics, to watch other sports and experience the Games from another perspective, although I would have loved to be there.
– It will be an unknown form after so many years of professional activity …
– I could only compare it with the London Games, which competed in the last few days and I went with just the right time, so I could see competitions on television, but now I don’t have the pressure to compete, of course.
– What have the Olympic Games meant for Ruth Beitia?
– They started out as a dream, watching the Barcelona Games. That my father was there as an athletics judge filled us a lot and meant a dream, the desire to be in some. And from there it was to fulfill stages of that dream, which was growing. First in Athens I wanted to reach a final, I did it in Beijing where I was seventh -today fourth-, in London I was fourth, I thought they were going to be my last Games and I came out of there defeated, with a magnificent fourth place. But Rio arrived and I had the feeling that I woke up from a dream to live a wonderful reality, with a gold medal always shared 50% with my coach Ramón Torralbo.
“The Games started as a dream and turned into a wonderful reality”
– Are you still excited to remember that moment?
– Yes, and especially this year that I do not know if it is because of the pandemic, because it is time to pass the baton at the beginning of the great sport event after what has been expected or that I am going to live it in a different way. But every time I watch a video or have an acknowledgment I get excited, I get goose bumps and a little tear escapes me. I had to face it, because five years ago I was the one who was there. You also realize how quickly time passes.
– And what will you feel when you see the Tokyo high-altitude final?
– I have been team leader in the European, in the Nations Cup, and now I know all the work behind a team. Allowing myself to get away for two hours to go see my test, sit in the stands and watch my girls, it’s beautiful. I put myself in a good position and I see that they are still looking for that knowing look, that hug. Being able to transmit off the track what I have experienced inside is fantastic. And above all I live it very relaxed, without the pressure they experience.
– The gold of Tokyo monopolizes the prominence of his Olympic career, but the London Games marked him a lot …
– Of course, that stadium is special, first because of the Games, but it was also the first time that I came out with the feeling of having given one hundred percent of me, and the bittersweet feeling of knowing that a person was sure they had cheated . I was totally convinced and it hurt a lot. With Ramón I did not speak those things because we could not live with suspicion, but it is bittersweet to jump two meters in the final, do what I think was the best ending of my life, and be off the podium. I remember that they took us off the track while the first three were on the podium, and Tia Hellebaut, a Belgian jumper, told me, ‘your medal is there’.
“I remember admiring athletes like Kobe Bryant, I took a picture with him”
– It took nine years to arrive …
– Sure, but I never said it openly until the news came out and it was confirmed.
– Let’s get back to the bright side. What is the Olympic spirit?
– It is difficult to verbalize and I agree with all the people I have been able to interview. It is much more than a spirit, in a feeling, it is sharing with athletes outside your sport, that a gymnast from North Korea can take a selfie with one from South Korea … it is much more than anything that can be tell, you have to live it. It is to enter the stadium and see that you are part of that inauguration, that after waiting four hours you forget absolutely everything because you are next to idols … There you understand the dream of the Games.
– What moments do you remember?
– I remember admiring athletes like Kobe Bryant and taking a picture with him. I am very respectful because we are all at what we are, risking the job of four years. But I said ‘I’m a friend of Pau Gasol, can I take a picture with you?’ I was very sorry when he passed away and I remembered that moment. I never saw him play a game, but I was at a Games with him.