María Vicente talks to the students at Marcet’s High Performance Academy after winning the Heptathlon Youth World Cup.
Some success stories start with defeat and disappointment. “One day, when I was little, my mother and aunt told me we off to the movies. I soon realised that they were actually taking me to an athletics track. I tried my luck at hurdles and long jump and found out that I actually really enjoyed it. That following year I signed up for athletics.“
Without that little lie, today María Vicente wouldn’t be the Junior Heptathlon World Champion. Nor would she have set the Under-18s’ Pentathlon world record, scoring 4.371 points. “As a child, I wasn’t fond of athletics simply because I thought it was just running, running and more running… And, to be honest, I wasn’t to keen on the idea of getting tired either.” This initial moment of disappointment by the hand of her mother changed the way she saw things and ended up turning the young Spanish heptathlete into a prime example of accomplishment.
Shortly after she turned 17, María paid the Marcet headquarters a visit to talk to the High Performance Academy’s players. Her commendable trajectory in athletics is a prime example for any young and aspiring athletes and no doubt a source of motivation to practicing sport at its highest level, football being no exception. No one is better suited to telling sports students of her same age the sheer amount of effort and the sacrifices she has had to endure in her pursuit of peak performance and competitive gratification.
“I don’t see my friends and family as much as I’d like, but I do something I really enjoy”
“You’re pretty limited in terms of being able to meet up with your friends on the weekend because that’s when you compete. Even more so if, like me, you board at a high-performance academy, which also limits how much you see your family. But they’re sacrifices that have their benefits. At the end of the day, you’re constantly doing something you enjoy as well as having an excuse to travel and compete internationally.”
Maria’s specialty is the Heptathlon, an extremely demanding test of residence that includes a varied range athletic specialties: 200 and 800 metres track races, 100 metres hurdles, high jump, long jump, javelin and shot put. Seven sports in one. Each one with its specific skillset and physical necessities, sometimes even contradictory between them. The strength and explosiveness needed to launch a javelin require a very different type of training to the resistance needed to win an 800 metre race.
But the young heptathlete’s secret isn’t only in her ability to adapt her physique to such different specialties. It’s also in her head. In an interview with ‘El Confidencial’, her former coach Álvaro Javier Fernández said that María is on her way to doing great things: “Especially if her head stays in the same place. Pressure is only going to get more intense, but we’re talking about an intelligent athlete. It’s easy to train her because she listens to everything, but she won’t give up her opinion either. I honestly think she can make Spanish athletics history if she carries on training the way she does.”
María dreams of making it to the Olympic Games, but she’s also aware that it’s not easy to make a living out of your passion. That’s why she has no intention of putting down the textbooks. “Athletics is a minority sport, unlike football. I’m in this because I like it, not for the money. I’m currently coursing my first year of Baccalaureate. I’d like to finish the second year, pass final exams and get started at university. One thing’s for sure and that’s that I’m not done studying by a long shot.”