The performance of Peleteiro and Cceres, bronze and diploma, takes place in the same place where Areta was sixth, in the 1964 Games, in length. Before his best attempt in the final, he smoked a cigarette.
The acceleration lane leading to the Tokyo stadium pit was puddled, because it wasn’t tartan. It was ash. A Spaniard accelerated, thrown like a man possessed, but he was not Eusebio Cceres, either Ana Peleteiro. It was a diploma like the first, in length, it did not reach the podium like the second, in triple, although it competed in both tests. It was not 2021. It was 1964, the year of a Games with all its atmosphere, the stadium inflamed. Luis Felipe Areta, who was 22 years old at the time, seven younger than Cceres and three younger than Peleteiro, put down his cigarette and took the leap of his life, although not the longest.
In a Spain where there is no structured athletics, Areta (San Sebastián, 1942) reached a sixth place that was not able to match any Spaniard in Olympic competitions for 40 years, until Athens 2004. It was Naroa Agirre, in pole. Peleteiro and Cceres improved it in the same place, with two flights in memory of the father of the jumps in Spain. Areta competed, in fact, in three Games, up to Mexico 68. Later, he changed the habits of the athlete for the habits of the priesthood, ordained by Opus Dei.
The weather was also different, because Tokyo had dawned under a storm that October 16, similar to the one that hit the stadium on Monday. That had caused the ash to compact. Areta makes his second attempt to enter the improvement of the final, after having tried, without success, to qualify in the triple, days ago. In fact, he was a jumper who alternated the two events, which he dominated for years at the national level, with 26 state records and 17 national titles. He took the length record from 7.40 to 7.77 and the triple record, his favorite specialty, from 14.54 to 16.36. He was the first Spaniard to pass 15 and 16 meters.
“WE SMOKE ON BREAKS”
Areta’s obsession was improvement, once among the 12 who played in the final, and he achieved it with an attempt of 7.30. The suspense was maximum after the measurement, because with the metallic marker the numbers fell one by one while the athletes watched it. Seeing the mark, Areta pulled out his pack of cigarettes and took shelter from the rain. “So the jumpers smoked on the track during the waits,” he declared to the Basque newspaper on the 50th anniversary of his feat.
The young Spaniard did it along with some of the great jumpers of the 60s, such as the American Ralph boston, second with 8.03, and the Soviet Igor Ter-Ovanesyan, third with 7.99. The british Lynn davis I won the gold with 8.07. Areta, who had already competed in Rome at the age of 18, was the representative of an Autrican Spain, in which the Franco regime celebrated the XXV years of Peace and the economic effects of the Stabilization Plan caused the first great year of the ‘babyboom’ . A Spain far from the world in which Lyndon johnson passed the Civil Rights Act, a year after the murder of JFK in Dallas, and in England the irreverent band Pink Floyd was born.
A Spain, likewise, far from athletics, except for vocational characters such as Gasca, whom the very young Areta found in the Atltico San Sebastián. “I had played in the youth team of the Real, I had even played basketball, but he suggested that I dedicate myself to the triple jump,” explained the protagonist.
LESIN IN MEXICO
In Mexico, four years later, Areta was classified among the 12 athletes who should compete in the final, but in the middle of the contest he was injured. Another injury prevented him from closing the next Olympic cycle in Munich and he said goodbye to the tracks to dedicate himself to studying Theology. He was a permanent member of Opus Dei since 1959. In 1980, he was ordained a priest with another group of professionals in Torreciudad, home of the order.
Spiritual direction has since occupied its time, while the witness he left at length was picked up by others, still pioneers in athletics, such as Rafa blanquer, the first Spaniard to exceed eight meters, in 1976, and break Areta’s national record. Then came Antonio Corgos or Plated Ral, current president of the Federation, without forgetting the ill-fated Yago Lamela, the misunderstood prodigy, who left the current record (8.56). For everyone who has spent a large part of their lives in the moat and knows its history, there is a connection between the two great moments of Tokyo.