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Spanish speedster spurred on by Olympic near miss

China Daily | Updated: 2022-03-29 09:28
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Spain's Nil Llop [Photo/Agencies]

BARCELONA-After missing out on the Beijing Winter Olympics, Spanish speed skater Nil Llop has already set his sights on winning a medal at the next Games in Italy.

The 19-year-old was unlucky to miss out on a spot at Beijing 2022 when he was disqualified from a 500m World Cup race in Calgary, Canada, last December because his skate touched one of the small cones that demarcate the track.

He was named on a reserve list for the 500m and 1,000m events, but ultimately never got the call and was forced to watch the Winter Olympics from afar. The pain of not making the Games still lingers for the Spaniard.

"The Chinese did a good job and offered us an incredible event. All the sportspeople interviewed said the same, that everything was very professional. I congratulate them and wish I could have been there," Llop told Xinhua at the Prat de Llobregat sports center, south of Barcelona.

Llop admitted that missing out on Beijing 2022 was a major blow for him and his training team. However, as one of the brightest up-and-coming talents of Spain's winter sports scene, he is not the type to give up easily.

"We already have to start working toward the next Games. I was very close last time and I'll do whatever it takes to make sure the same thing doesn't happen next time," he said.

Indeed, there is every reason to believe that missing out on Beijing will be just a blip for Llop, who is used to enjoying success.

He won gold at the World Roller Games in Barcelona in 2019 and silver at the 2020 Winter Youth Olympics.

"I live for this sport. It's like a job to which I devote 24 hours, including resting, eating and training the best I can. To get the chance to go to the Olympic Games and compete in the world championships, I have to make a lot of sacrifices," he said.

Llop's resolve faced a stern test when he suffered a serious skating accident at the age of 15 in 2018 that left him with a fractured jaw and hands, and almost ended his career.

"The doctors said I would probably never skate again, which was a big blow for me. I had a bad time and suffered a lot, but through training I managed to get back into shape and won the world championships in Barcelona," said Llop.

"Where the mental side was concerned, I needed help from professionals to get my full confidence back."

Now he is more determined than ever to realize his dream of an Olympic medal at the 2026 Winter Games in Milan and Cortina d'Ampezzo.

"We've got four long, hard years ahead of us, but I'll do all I can and give everything in training and competition to get to the highest level," Llop vowed.

The dedicated teenager is already making good on that promise. At the end of January, he made history by becoming the first Spaniard to win a silver medal at the World Junior Speed Skating Championships in Innsbruck, Austria.


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