News : Phondy: and I swear I’ll be back tomorrow
Fernando García, the great Phondy, is a coach who until 2012 attended 3 Olympic Games, 5 World Cups and 3 Europeans with Elíseo Martín. Now, with Pol Oriach, it is time to ask him if he will ever return. “It is not easy to believe but I find it more difficult to give up”
– Every day the time runs more. It seems like yesterday I met an 11-year-old who wanted to get started in track and field, ”explains Phondy, age 53.
“I had just gotten the title of national monitor,” he adds.
And that kid, named Elíseo Martín, reached three Olympic Games, five World Cups and three Europeans in the 3,000 obstacles.
– Who was going to tell me?
And, by his side, Phondy was so happy.
– I grew up with him. He was more devoted to Elíseo than to me. I always thought that if he did not finish emerging it’s because I was doing something wrong.
– And you found out what was wrong?
– Yes. I put a lot of volume in winter and did not put quality brushstrokes. He did not separate the chaff from the grain. In those winters it was six or seven degrees below zero and I was scared. He was leaving the quality for very late. But from 96 or 97 we changed and it all started with 8’13 ”of the Huelva rally. And there we positioned ourselves until he retired in 2012 after being a medalist in Pamplona in a Spanish championship.
“He caught the chickenpox that summer,” he adds. If I hadn’t gone to London 2012, to their fourth Games.
Nine years have passed and Phondy has never had an athlete of that category again.
– I’m not looking for him but we will do something right because Javier Mariño and now Pol Oriach appeared.
“But, of course, reaching the level of Elysee is so difficult,” I tell him.
“But who knows in the future,” he answers.
Phondy then speaks of Pol Oriach, that looks like a diamond in the rough.
“Pol is not the second Elysee,” he says. Elisha there is only one. His story was unique. In 1999 he was champion of Spain of 3,000 obstacles and the day before he was injured in a hamstring. I had to bandage his leg all night to hold.
“But Elíseo was like Guadiana,” he insists. It appeared and disappeared. In 2002 a flowerpot fell on his foot in an accident at home. They told him that he would never run again. However, three months later, was fifth in Europe in Munich attacking in the last lap ”.
“My mouth fills up remembering,” says Phondy. But this story is enough for a book.
– I could also tell you that in 2009 he did 8’16 ”with a pubalgia – he adds now.
What’s more, there are days when Phondy tells these stories to the youngest.
– Yes, because it teaches them, it hardens them. I always remind them that each athlete has their defense mechanism and I, as a coach, have to pull the car for training to start. But it is also true that by making decisions you learn a lot.
– What can Pol Oriach teach you at 18?
– To dream again, to make a unique athlete, to remind him that athletics passes and the person remains.
– The day after
– Indeed. There comes a day when you have to throw the bolt.
– But the coach stays.
– And you long for those summers and you realize that without the great championships your summers are not the same anymore. I went with Elíseo everywhere. I asked for part of my vacation at the company. I was in Sydney for a month the year of the Olympics but those moments in the stands, that last lap watching him fight with the best in the world, that remains in the retina forever.
– Pol Oriach must take him there again.
– I do not know. But you will never see Pol out of place. If you explain tactics to him, he stares at you, it motivates you to continue explaining him and as I always say where he puts the eye puts the bullet.
– And do coaches’ tactics still win or lose races?
– Yes I think so.
– But how do you do a tactic in a race that it has never run?
– Studying the rivals and being clear about how your athletes are. I always tell my people: “With us in shape, the problem belongs to the rest.” I still remember with Pol when he was runner-up in Europe and I had a conversation with him, “we train so that the semifinal is a formality and to be better in the final”.
– I sell it to the athlete and he has to buy it for me.
– I assure you that even I carry the pulsations higher in the stands than the athlete -he insists.
– And how come you know so much about athletics?
– I look for everything inside of me. Since I was 14 years old, when I started to work picking fruit, I have been like that. In ’92 I got a plane ticket to go to Boston to go to the World Cross Championship to see Elíseo. It cost me 55,000 pesetas and I did it because I felt I had to. And so it has always been.
In the following days, Phondy returns to reality.
And so it has been for the past 35 years.
And at seven in the morning he is already at the Monzón metal factory, where he works as an industrial director.
– I have a coffee and I get busy with all the activity from when the order arrives at the door until the truck is loaded.
He is a man with two lives and both is dedicated to body and soul, promises.
He remembers that he took the plane for the 2007 World Cup in Osaka two days after his father died, “here he didn’t do anything anymore.”
There are a thousand stories, indeed, in which he always remembers aloud that “The most important thing is to believe.”
– And is it so easy to believe?
– It’s not that easy. But in my case it is more difficult to give up. And if next year you make a hundredth less or stay, I have already won, I tell the athletes.
He gives his own example:
– I’m 53 years old and I still think I’m in my 20s.
And he insists:
– Life passes but it all depends of what one carries inside.
And that he is a man with a hip replacement who has undergone five operating rooms in six years.
– I got to do 2 hours 28 minutes in a marathon. I was an athlete from 11 to 44 years old when osteoarthritis was discovered, which in my case was hereditary. My mother has it. People told me, “of course, running all day”, but I am convinced that sport has made my osteoarthritis be delayed.
Phondy, the middle of 5 siblings, belongs “to a generation that learned to make a living on the street.”
There he also learned to run “after a bet with a friend.”
Today, at 53, it is as if he kept running.
His wife and daughters have learned to accept his absences, to live with them.
But it is that separating a man from his vocation can be a danger.
And who knows.
Who knows if Phondy will ever retire.