To talk about Malaga is to talk about sport, and not only football or basketball either. It is several decades since triathlon made an appearance on the Costa del Sol, but it has now reached unprecedented levels, with record numbers of federated triathletes. They swim, cycle and run for hours on end and over hundreds of kilometres.
This sport entails sacrifice but last year 1,175 people in the province held triathlon licences: 894 men and 249 women. This is the highest figure in Andalucía, and 28 per cent of the total. The region of Andalucía is second in Spain, only behind that of Madrid and very close to Valencia, according to the latest figures (for 2016).
Many people don't understand the attraction of this sport in Malaga, but ever since the beginning, the province has been known for its talent. Three years ago Rubén Bravo became part of the technical team of the Real Club Mediterráneo, the second club in the province in terms of licences (120) and the highest number of federated female athletes in its ranks (33).
Bravo is one of the great triathletes on the Costa del Sol and one of the few to have made their place among the international elite. For ten years he was part of the Spanish team, lived at the High Performance Centre in Madrid, coincided with athletes such as Javier Gómez Noya in world championships and events and can boast of having been European champion.
“When I began in 1992, I was one of the few who went abroad to compete. There were only about 100 of us in a triathlon and nowadays, if you don't reserve your place two months beforehand you can't compete,” says Bravo, whose sister María has a similar record as an international medallist and elite triathlete.
He still competes, but on a different level. His priorities have changed. “I never thought of becoming a coach, but now by transferring my experience as a professional to amateur competitions, I feel I'm giving value to other aspects of the sport,” he explains. “We have always been a benchmark in Andalucía and Spain, and now it seems that triathlon in Malaga is more popular than ever before.”
However, these days there is little assistance available for this sport, which means that some promising triathletes from Malaga are obliged to join clubs elsewhere. “Some, like the González brothers, compete with a Galician club. It's a shame that, with the excellent athletes we have here, the help which used to exist is no longer available,” says Rubén.
The Club Mediterráneo tops the list in terms of women with licences, but it is the Bahía de Malaga which has the highest number of triathletes in the provincial classification, with 145 (113 men and 32 women). For several years this meant it was number one in Andalucía, but in 2017 it was overtaken by ADS of Seville, with 159. Bahía was another great forerunner in this sport, alongside Mediterráneo, followed by Triatlón Marbella Bike and the TriTrain4you of Malaga city, both with 87 licences.
Not all the figures are this positive. The participation of women in triathlon could still be better, at least in terms of competing, as Lorena Cobos of the Bahía de Malaga club explains: “A lot of girls have registered, but they don't compete. For example, in the 'cross' modality I am the only one who does. I think the cycling is one of the main impediments. Not many girls opt for that and I would like that to change. I always have to train with men, at the moment,” she says.
This perspective does not mean, however, that the female standard is inferior to that of the men. Lorena is a fine example of that. In less than a year she has gone from being an amateur athlete to winning the women's title on the provincial circuit.
“It's true that at this club we don't all compete to become great athletes but if you train seriously you can achieve whatever you want,” she insists.
There are different profiles of triathletes, from people who have become part of the international elite to others who do it for entertainment or to keep fit. Everybody has their own reason for practising this sport which, undoubtedly, will continue to grow.
is the number of triathlon clubs in the province. It is the second highest after Seville, with 51, although in that case there is lower participation.
is the number of triathlon licences held in Malaga. It is a record so far and the highest in the region of Andalucía.
licences are held by members of the Bahía de Malaga club today. It is the biggest club on the Costa del Sol and second in Andalucía in terms of triathletes.