Golden end to career of Spain's Llaneras

Society Materials 19 August 2008 22:05 (UTC +04:00)

(dpa) - An Olympic gold and a silver in just three days is not the usual performance for a sportsman who is on the verge of retirement, but that is precisely what Spanish cyclist Joan Llaneras achieved in Beijing 2008.

The Spaniard won silver in the men's madison race at the Beijing Olympics, alongside Toni Tauler, to add to the gold he obtained Saturday in the points race.

Shortly after he alighted from his bicycle after his last top- level race, he was already feeling nostalgic.

"I might think twice about retirement," Llaneras joked.

A few seconds later, however, he regained his usual seriousness and stood by his choice.

"It is a decision we made a while ago, and we are going to stick to it," he said of retirement, aware of the fact that his family in Mallorca has a say too.

"But in this country ( Spain) small sports live on scholarships, and in this country scholarships are paid after the fact, based on your results. It means giving up a very important sum of money," Llaneras explained. "I will go, but it's a shame."

A new life beckons for the cyclist, who at age 39 ended his career in Beijing as only the greatest in sport can do - at the top.

Llaneras won gold in Sydney 2000 and silver in Athens 2004, which together with his Beijing 2008 medals make him Spain's most successful Olympic sportsman. Tennis player Arantxa Sanchez Vicario got the same number of medals, but her two silvers and two bronzes place her behind Llaneras.

"Now I am going to be at the Palma de Mallorca velodrome, working in the field of sports. I will retain ties to cycling," he noted.

So far, he has left a mark in track cycling. The discipline was all about speed. But Llaneras is slow, so he built up his stamina on the road and went on to transformed track cycling.

"I hope to have left as a legacy a way of racing. There are many things that people have copied from me over the years. There was an evolution in cycling, that is what I have achieved," he said proudly.

He has seven track cycling world championship golds - four in the points race and three in madison - to show for his efforts, despite always living in the shadow of road racing, which is Spain's real passion.

"The word 'star' is far too modest for Llaneras," his partner Tauler said Tuesday.

The two received a visit at the Laoshan velodrome from Spain's Queen Sofia and Princess Cristina, who also watched Llaneras win gold Saturday.

But this may be the last time the cyclist comes across royalty.

"It's time for a change in life," Llaneras said.