Four mountain bikers were chosen Wednesday to represent Spain at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. Based on the 2007 UCI rankings, selector Cristóbal Sanchez summoned three men and one woman: Jose Antonio Hermida, Iñaki Lejarreta, Carlos Coloma and Marga Fullana. Ruben Ruzafa and Rocío Gamonal were picked as alternates "in case some exceptional event takes place, like an injury or a disease."
Final nations' rankings from 2006 and 2007 will be used to determine how many athletes each country can send, and while those standings aren't finalized yet, as of October 18, 2007, Spain was sitting third in the rankings for the men, but did not make the top five for the women. To send the maximum team of three men or two women to Beijing, a nation must have a top-five ranking in the men's standings or a top-eight ranking for the women.
"If I give the selection with this much time in advance [of the Games], the athletes will be as prepared as possible for Beijing," said Sanchez, who was also pleased about the Spanish men earning three spots. "Our immediate goal was to obtain the third [men's] Olympic seat, something we never had and finally we have done so. The quest to do so was very positive for the riders, who have given it everything. I want to publicly thank the cyclists and their teams for their collaboration and support."
After hearing the news of his selection, team leader Jose Antonio Hermida said, "I am satisfied, I cannot deny it. Though I was waiting for it, I didn't stop from worrying that some last minute thing might influence the national team coach to select another rider. Now that I know, there is less pressure, so I can have more tranquility to prepare for the 2008 season which will be focused on the Olympic Games."
Lejarreta, who suffered illness in 2005 and 2006, but returned for strong 2007 season, was also happy and said, "For me today is a great day, because I know that I will be in the most important competition for a sportsman. Now I have almost a year to prepare for this appointment and to repay all the confidence that has been shown in me. I want to thank for my family, to my fiancée and all around me who supported me in the bad moments. Just a year ago, I was thinking about leaving the cycling, and now I am preparing for the Olympic Games. Without them, it would not have been possible."
The Olympic mountain bike races are set for August 22 and 23, 2008 in Beijing, China.