From left to right, Ángela Lobato, Azahara Muñoz, Sole López, Marta López and Damián Quintero.
From left to right, Ángela Lobato, Azahara Muñoz, Sole López, Marta López and Damián Quintero. / SUR

The demanding road to Tokyo 2020

  • Only two names from Malaga are practically guaranteed a place at the Olympics, but others may be added later

  • Karateca Damián Quintero has qualified and so will golfer Azahara Muñoz, barring last-minute surprises

This century began extremely well for sportsmen and women from Malaga. Thirteen athletes represented the province, winning two medals, at Sydney 2000, and nine competitors went to Athens in 2004, but the situation regarding those heading to the Olympics next year is currently looking very different. Hopefuls from the Costa del Sol can practically be counted on the fingers of one hand.


Damián Quintero, second in the 'ranking' for katas

Damián, who is from Torremolinos, is currently second in the Olympic ranking for katas, and about ten competitors will be taking part in Tokyo. Now aged 35 (he will celebrate his 36th birthday just before the Games), he is feeling fortunate because his sport is making its debut in the Olympic programme, although a priori it already has an expiry date; barring last-minute changes, it won't be included in Paris in 2024. However, he stands a very good chance of bringing a medal home to Malaga next year.

Meanwhile, young María Torres is 28th in the Olympic ranking for kumite in the 61+ kilos weight group. Her chances of achieving her objective are not quite as good as those of Damián, because only ten competitors will be taking part in each weight group. She might, however, have a chance at the qualification tournament in Paris from 8 to 10 May (for three of these places in each weight group).


Azahara Muñoz returns to the Olympics

Azahara Muñoz, who is from San Pedro Alcántara, is currently 22nd in the Olympic ranking, so it would be very strange if she were not to meet the requirements between now and 29 June - the cut-off date - to be among the 60 top golfers, which is the final quota of players. The first 15 men and women to classify will have direct access to the Olympics in Tokyo, with the limitation that there cannot be more than four golfers from any one country. Also, the rest of the nations can only opt for two places, which means that some of the worst-classified golfers could achieve their objective and compete in Tokyo. There is a third condition, the representation of players from all the continents, which will also mean that some lower-ranked golfers will be included.

Right now, however, it looks as if Muñoz, who was at Rio in 2016 (the first time golf was included in the Olympic programme) and came 21st, will be there, and will be accompanied by her compatriots Carlota Ciganda, Jon Rahm and Rafa Cabrera Bello.


Sole López and Marta López: World and Pre-Olympic

The two women handball players from Malaga, who have the same surname but are not related, are doing well enough so far to expect to be at the Games, barring previous injury. This would be the third time for Marta López (who plays in Romania for Ramnicu Valcea), and her team won a bronze medal in London 2012, where she was a last-minute substitute for an injured player. Now, what is most important, is that these female 'warriors' get their ticket to next year's Olympics, something which won't be easy but is doable. After coming 12th in the European Games last year, Spain was not able to take that route for a place in the world qualifiers. The only way is at the World Championships which take place in Japan from 29 November to 15 December, for six tickets to the Olympic Qualification Tournament.


Paula Ruiz and María de Valdés will try in May

Malaga has two good possibilities for the open water format, Paula Ruiz (CN Mairena) and María de Valdés (CN Liceo). Neither of them was able to classify (they came 24th and 33rd respectively) at the recent World Championships in Gwangju (where ten places were available for Tokyo). Nevertheless, they both stand a good chance at the qualification event in Fukuoka on 30 and 31 May. Nine or ten places will be available (depending on whether or not a Japanese competitor is included) for the best swimmers in this competition, with the limitation that there will only be one place per country and gender.

Beach volleyball

Ángela Lobato, from Nerja, isn't ruling anything out

The classification system for beach volleyball is one of the most complex, but it also has one of the least curious options. There will be 24 couples per gender (a maximum of two per country) and in the women's section Ángela Lobato, from Nerja, who competes with Catalan player Amaranta Fernández, is part of the first Spanish women's pair to be outside the cut, but at the same time nearest to their objective.


Possible surprises ahead in various sports

Thanks to the title of European under-21s, Spain will be sending a team of male players to the Olyjmpics and Ontiveros, from Marbella, Junior (Barcelona) from Benalmádena and Pozo (Rayo Vallecano), from Fuengirola, could have a chance although it is pretty remote.