Sunday, 4 February 2024, 18:13
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.
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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