Giant on the move
Basketball gold would cap Spain’s superb sporting year
Rafael Nadal’s victory over Nicolas Lapentti in Cincinnati means the 22-year-old is now certain to depose Roger Federer as world number one in tennis by August 18 at the latest.
Carlos Sastre won the Tour de France last month, giving Spain their third victory in three years. Alberto Contador, last year’s winner, followed up his triumph with success in the Giro d’Italia.
The biggest success of all was Spain’s victory at Euro 2008, their first major tournament title in 44 years.
Now, there’s no way Spain are going to finish top of the medals table in Beijing. Sports minister Jaime Lissavetzky recently said the target was six golds at best.
Those medal hopes include Nadal, of course, as well as athletes like double champion Gervasio Deferr in gymnastics, synchronised swimmers Andrea Fuentes and Gemma Mengual and the walker Paquillo Fernandez.
I suspect the gold most Spaniards really want is basketball.
Spain are the world champions and they have a formidable team including Pau Gasol, his brother Marc, Jose Calderon and the 17-year-old Ricky Rubio, someone you may not have heard of yet but destined to be one of the big names in the sport.
Spain beat Argentina, the reigning Olympic champions, in two recent warm-up games and their strong defence will make them one of the toughest teams to beat.
The question is whether they can overcome the Americans, who continued their warm-up with a 114-82 win over Turkey. The U.S. will be the favourites, but the way the year is going it would be unwise to rule out the Spanish.
PHOTO: Nadal on his way to the world number one slot, August 1, 2008. REUTERS/Jay LaPrete