Spain’s Garciá-Caro pipped to European race walk bronze after early celebration

    Unbridled joy turned to devastation for the Spanish race walker, Laura García-Caro, on the opening day of the European Athletics Championships, as a premature celebration cost her a first major medal.

    Five metres from the end of the women’s 20km race walk in Rome, García-Caro punched the air and stuck her tongue out in triumph, thinking bronze was secure.

    But she was left red-faced as the Ukrainian, Lyudmila Olyanovska, made up a 50-metre gap before brushing past her a stride before the line.

    García-Caro had been so confident of a medal that she grabbed a Spanish flag in the final stages of the race, which ended in the Stadio Olimpico. But she failed to look up at the big screen to see the Ukrainian was closing. When she turned to her right as she felt her rival approaching, she gave a look of horror, realising her dreams of glory had suddenly been shattered.

    To make matters worse, Olyanovska served a four-year doping ban between 2015 and 2019 for an adverse analytical finding. “I was really tired on the last lap,” García-Caro said. “I did my best.”

    Olyanovska, meanwhile, dedicated the medal to her country. “It is a very emotional moment for me,” she said. “Of course, I was tired in the last kilometre and last metres, but I wanted to win this medal for my country so much.

    “Nowadays there is a war in Ukraine. We train under very difficult conditions, it was very hard preparation but I am very glad I managed to bring a medal home. This was what was pushing me to the finish the most.

    “My little son is waiting for me at home in Ukraine, he is five years old and just for him, I pushed myself so much. I do not know even if he saw me competing today because in Ukraine the infrastructure is broken. They do not have electricity, there is no internet, no light, so I do not know if he saw me on TV.”

    The race walk, which took place around the Stadio dei Marmi inside the Olympic Stadium complex, was won by the Italian Olympic champion, Antonella Palmisano.

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    The 32-year-old, with a decorative woollen flower in the colours of the Italian flag in her hair, was cheered home as she finished in 1hr 28 min 08 sec.

    Her compatriot, Valentina Trapletti, then sealed an Italian one-two, 29 seconds back, as the hosts took the first medals of the championships.

    Olyanovska and García-Caro shared the same time – 1hr 28 min 48 sec – but that came as no consolation to the Spaniard, who looked dazed as what happened to her began to sink in.

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