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Swimmer María de Valdés with her silver medal. AFP
Fuengirola open water swimmer becomes first Malaga athlete to seal Olympic qualification
Swimming

Fuengirola open water swimmer becomes first Malaga athlete to seal Olympic qualification

María de Valdés put in an exceptional performance to claim silver in World Aquatics Championships in Doha

Marina Rivas

Malaga

Sunday, 4 February 2024, 18:13

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Fuengirola's María de Valdés become the first athlete from Malaga to seal participation in the upcoming Paris Olympics after coming second in the 10-kilometre open water category at the World Aquatics Championships in Doha on Saturday.

In doing so, De Valdés also became the first Andalusian to claim a world medal in this gruelling discipline.

The swimmer, who had previously secured silver at the 2022 European Championships in Rome in the five-kilometre category, overcame a multitude of challenges, including injuries and the loss of her father, to achieve this remarkable feat.

AFP

The 25-year-old put in a sensational performance, showcasing remarkable consistency. Positioned in the leading group from the start, De Valdés maintained a strong fourth-place position throughout the nearly two-hour competition.

Then, in the closing moments, she made a decisive move, propelling herself into medal contention and challenging the dominance of the widely regarded 'queen' of the sport, Sharon Van Rouwendall.

For a brief moment, she even seized the lead just before the finish line. However, Van Rouwendall secured the gold with a mere fraction of a second lead (1:57:26.80), leaving De Valdés with a well-deserved silver (1:57:26.90).

This silver medal not only marks a significant personal achievement for De Valdés but also contributes to a historic moment for the Spanish national team. For the first time, two female swimmers, including the promising international Ángela Martínez, will represent Spain in the 10-kilometre open water event at the Olympic Games.

Martínez secured her place with a commendable 13th position and a time of 1:57:36.60.

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