Asier Martínez is forced to wake up and knock on the door of the press department because they are waiting for him to go live on TV. It’s the first time she’s woken up as a world medalist, and last night, her head still wrapped in a whirlwind of emotions and images, she had to take a pill to fall asleep, so she’s having a hard time starting that day. The young man from Navarra (Zizur Mayor, 22 years old), a fourth-year political science student at the University of the Basque Country, benefited in the final from an unusual double accident: the injury in the warm-up of the Jamaican Hansle Pargament and the disqualification of the American Grant Holloway.
Even back then, when there were only six men and three medals, it never crossed his mind to get on the podium. In those seconds when he was finally waiting for the start, his calculations looked different despite the fall of two favorites. “I didn’t envision the medal, but I did calculations to improve sixth place in Tokyo. Because I already knew what it was like to play against Poland, Bahamas and Brits. I said to myself, well, not a medal, but a good finish.”
The rest is history. Martínez ran the race of his life in 13.17 seconds, a personal best and an under-23 record. “I’ve seen it several times, I don’t assimilate it, I don’t believe it.” This is how he explains his test, which started with tearing down the first fence, but without consequences. “Coming in with a lot of speed, I don’t feel that touch of the fence so much. Even though I touch it and it throws me off, I don’t realize it puts me off the track. I’m still strong, I still use that strong access to those fences to finish in a quick finish,” he recalled.
When he turns his head and sees the Pole behind him and just the two Americans in front of him and he knows he’s a medalist, he screams and lets go of the tension. But then, as he walks past the podium and speaks to the media, he embraces victory without fanfare, with astonishing calm. “I’m talkative, very nervous, although I often try to pretend otherwise because that’s how I was taught. They’ve always called me a nerd since I was a kid.
The disqualification of local hero Devon Allen for just a thousandth of a second has sparked controversy over how reaction times are measured. Although he took advantage of it, Martínez admits that unusual things happened. “When I see the videos, I understand the controversy. Something strange happened because we saw athletes responding in 104 thousandths, 103, 101… [por debajo de 100 supone la eliminación]. These reactions are not normal. No athlete has reacted like this in previous championships.”
From a chemist father and a doctor, he decided to study politics. “I was interested in having the tools to analyze structural realities from a more theoretical perspective,” he says, passing from athlete Asier to student Asier for a few seconds. Someone who doesn’t shut themselves inside that sometimes so repetitive and unrealistic bubble of streaks on the track, weights in the gym and obsession with physique and results and opens their eyes to the outside world: Now he has a book about the Maras, the Central American Latino gangs.
His intention is to continue studying and combine it with athletics, a duet he believes they combine perfectly. But how can you continue to improve? “In the comparison that we do with the rest of the competitors, we see that there is still a physical step, power and strength parameters that condition those first two jumps.” This beginning is his weak point, he admits. “I don’t see myself as inferior either technically or in the last part, but I see myself as inferior in the first two hurdles”.
He’ll land in Barajas at 9.05am on Thursday, a medal around his neck and eager to finally eat well after settling on chicken and pasta last week – and nearly a kilo of Serrano ham he brought back from Spain – for the lack based variety in the Oregon campus dining room due to the lack of better quality vegetables, salads and meats.
But there will be no time to rest too long. In less than a month, the Munich European Championship begins. And his competitors will no longer see a talented young man, but a newcomer, but a World Cup medalist. “My goals haven’t changed. I want to reach the final, it won’t be as expensive as the World Cup. And once it hit me for the high posts. I can’t say if it was a medal, fourth place or first place.”