Basque Athletes in the London Olympics

Basque Athletes in the London Olympics 2012
By Nancy Zubiri

RELATED STORY: Basques in the 2016 Rio Olympics

Iker Martinez and Xabi Fernandez, Olympic Sailors
Iker Martinez and Xabi Fernandez, Olympic Sailors.
Photo from EFE.

Two women brought top honors to the Basques in the Olympics by winning bronze medals. Maialen Chourraut Yurramendi of Donosti (San Sebastian), won the bronze medal for the individual women’s slalom kayak race. Chourraut is a Spanish slalom kayaker (also referred to as canoer), who has competed since the early 2000s.

Chourraut won a silver medal in the Canoe Slalom World Championships in 2009. Two years later, she won a bronze medal in the 2011 World Championships. Chourraut competed in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, but did not qualify for finals. Read the report from EITB, the Basque news station, for more information.

Some controversy arose when the Basque flag was apparently confiscated from her supporters, according to a Catalan website, by officials who thought the flag of non-countries was not allowed. Basque blogger Asier Odriozola, owner of the website Digital Creative Chef, contacted London Olympic officials who agreed the Basque flag is not supposed to be banned, because “flags of nations under the umbrella of a participating country, such as England, Scotland and Wales” (and Euskadi, under Spain) are permitted under the Olympic rules.

Female Basque wrestler, Maider Unda, from Vitoria, representing Spain, won the first medal for a freestyle female wrestler from the Basque Country, according to EITB. Unda had an easy win over her first rival, Columbia, in the women’s 72 kg. wrestling competition on Aug. 9, gaining herself a place in the quarter finals. She beat Mongolia, but then was brought down by Bulgaria in the semi-finals the same day. She won, however, in the repechage, a final heat against Belarus, which qualified her for the bronze, along with Kazakhstan’s Guzel Manyurova, according to the EITB report.

Unda missed the bronze in the 2008 Olympics, losing to the same Bulgarian opponent, Stanka Zlateva Hristova. Hristova won the silver medal this time around.

The next highest placing by a Basque athlete was seventh place in her event, according to a report from EITB, Ainhoa Murua of Zarautz, in the women’s triathlon.

Heading into the Olympics, the Spanish men’s soccer team, winner of the World Cup in 2010, was favored to win the gold medal in men’s soccer. At least three Basque soccer players, Javi Martinez of Estella-Lizarre in Navarra, Iker Muniain of Iruna-Pamplona and Ander Herrera from Bilbo, were on the team. However, in a serious disappointment to fans and the team, Spain was eliminated early after losing to Japan 1-0 and Honduras 1-0, and earning a draw with Morocco.

Two Basque sailers Iker Martínez and Xabi Fernández did not qualify for finals in their third Olympic participation in the 49er sailing event, after finishing 12th overall, according to EITB.

Mikel Odriozola, of Renteria, participated in the 50K walk on Aug. 11. He made it in 4 hours 2 minutes and came in 42nd.

All these athletes represented Spain in the Olympics. It was unclear if there were any Basque athletes representing France.