And, then, Antonio Vázquez, an Asturian from the small town of Levinco, isolated himself from the world. He only had forty seconds to shoot three arrows, the last ones. «I live every moment by closing my eyes. Every time I see the video of the final against Finland, I get emotional,” he would declare years later. His level of concentration was so high at that decisive moment that he did not seem aware of what was happening around him. He did not see the tension of his teammates or the expectation of the public, and the responsibility of giving Spain an Olympic gold in archery did not even seem to weigh him down. Like Severiano Ballesteros in the most important golf tournaments, Vázquez, who at thirty-one years old was the veteran of the team, had hired a sophrologist – a specialist in relaxation methods – to try to control his nerves. He didn’t want to know what score he needed to win. He raised the bow, looked at the target, drew the string and fired. Once, again, again. Nine, nine, nine. He had two points left (Spain, 238; Finland, 236). The men’s archery team had just made history after an exceptional shoot. Juan Carlos Holgado, 24 years old, from Extremadura born in the German town of Dierdorf, and Alfonso Menéndez, 26 years old, from Asturias from Avilés, ran to hug him. Vázquez couldn’t believe it.
Because the success of the Spanish archery team cannot be described as a feat or a surprise, although it also can be described as a miracle. He had never before achieved a medal in previous Games nor would he achieve it again later. At the Vall d’Hebron facilities, where they went through qualifying rounds against the odds until defeating Finland in the final, they played a discreet role in the individual classification. Vázquez took 28th place, Menéndez 42nd and Holgado 46th. Spain is not among the elite of this sport today, even less so in the 90s and the strength was only given by the group. The unexpected success of Barcelona, according to its protagonists, was based on work – between eight and ten hours a day for years shooting more than four hundred arrows each day -, adequate planning, the hiring of one of the best technicians in the world, illusion, magic and luck. Holgado, who remained linked to this sport through the World Archery Center based in Lausanne, points out that “although the three of us were very different, we coordinated thanks to the mentality that the coach, Víctor Sidoruk, instilled in us. his Soviet discipline.
Spain hardly counted even though that same year it was second in the Tournament of Nations, behind the powerful South Korea. “We were not the favorites in Barcelona, but we knew we had a chance as a team,” recalls Vázquez, who had already participated in two previous Olympics, those in Moscow and Seoul, with poor classifications, and withdrew in Atlanta. After working for a time as an assistant coach in the Spanish Federation, he found work in Ibiza in a signage company and continued competing and training. Now, at 56 years old, he practices other sports, mainly running and cycling, he dedicates himself to traveling and lives in Begues, in Bajo Llobregat.
For Menéndez, whose participation in Barcelona was the only one in the Olympic Games, “the ten years I was cloistered in the Blume Residence, training eight to ten hours a day, were worth it. He only had one day of rest a week. Three years later “I closed the briefcase with the bow inside and it stayed there. I haven’t picked it up again, and I don’t miss it. Menéndez, after a few years in the Higher Sports Council during the Cortés Elvira era, dedicated himself to sports management.
Juan Carlos Holgado, the youngest of the team, who also had the help of a sophrologist – “coach in the mental aspect” he calls him – was in two Games, those in Seoul 88 and Barcelona. After retirement he was appointed event director of the International Archery Federation to start the World Cup project. Subsequently, he was appointed by World Archery as Technical Delegate for the Beijing 2008, London 2012 and Rio 2016 Games. He also helps “archers and coaches of different levels whenever they request it.”
The memory of Barcelona’92 is indelible. Holgado, Menéndez and Vázquez wrote a brilliant and unprecedented page in Spanish archery that has not been repeated. «It was something indescribable. “There were a lot of emotions,” summarizes Vázquez, the hero of the final, whose gold medal he hung in his parents’ house.