November 25, 2020

Canarias, in gold letters

The centuries-old history of Spanish swimming could not have been written in golden letters without the Canary Islands being the protagonist. Modest in its origins, with the passage of time its successful career has earned a place of honor, as is reflected in the Centennial book of the Royal Spanish Federation (RFEN).

The RFEN was founded in 1920 by the hand, among others, of the remembered Bernardo Picornell, at a time when Hispanic swimming already had Barcelona as its epicenter; its athletes were the great dominators of the competitions of those beginnings together with the Castilians, led by Madrid.

Everything changes after the sudden stop caused by the Civil War. When the Spanish Championships are held again, in Palma de Mallorca in 1941, there is a greening of this sporting specialty.

And the Archipelago very soon took center stage, and in what way. The Canary Islands conquered the title of national champion, swimming being the first sport to score a victory of this caliber for the Islands.

From that year on, it was no longer just Catalonia and Castile, now it would also be necessary to have the Canary Islands. This is how the slogan of Las tres C arose to refer to the hegemony of Spanish swimming. These three regions acted as dominators for many years.

In fact, swimming in the Canary Islands had been practiced for quite some time. Three historical figures, Julio Navarro, José Feo and Paco Rancel, knew how to channel the sporting concerns of island swimmers on Las Canteras beach, in Gran Canaria, and in the Spa and Nautical, in Santa Cruz de Tenerife. Thanks to the initiative of a visionary like Julio Navarro, who enthused his group of beach friends with his ideas and his love for swimming, the Metropole Swimming Club was formed.

In addition, Julio Navarro also gave life to the Canarian Federation in order to participate in the Spanish Championships in Valencia in 1935. Although he was a modest presence, he served to lay the foundations for the future. “The main thing is that a lot has been learned, the failures have been seen and the fire has opened,” he said, in addition to realizing an advantage: having a climate that allowed training more months of the year than the rest of Spain.

Golden season

When the City Council of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria built the Julio Navarro swimming pool in Doramas Park, a golden age of Canarian swimming began. Between 1941 and 1960, the Canary Islands were proclaimed champion of Spain 12 times in male, runner-up in five and third, another three. At the female level, seven national winches and a runner-up endorsed the power of the islanders. The irruption of the Canarian swimmers was a shock in Spanish swimming not only for their swimming values, but also for their personal ones.

At the end of 1959, as it already happened at the beginning of the decade, the table of records of Spain was taken over by Canarian swimmers. Of the dozen individual events in the program, nine had our swimmers as their dominators; and of course the relays, one of the strengths of the canaries. The island dominance was such that swimming encounters were organized between the Canary Islands and the rest of Spain, where the triumph always fell to the island.

Then came the boom in covered swimming pools in the peninsula, especially in Catalonia, and the Canary Islands lost part of their hegemony. But what was not lost was the quality of its swimmers, who made refined technique their flag; his swimming style and competitiveness caused astonishment. The pioneers left their hallmark.

We are talking about a swim, the Canarian, which has contributed to the national scene more than 250 titles of individual and relay national champions, who have broken Spanish records more than 300 times. To these records we must add a broad international presence, with more than 800 calls for the selection.

Among the latter, it is worth highlighting the Olympic presence of some thirty island athletes among three disciplines of this sport: swimming, jumping and synchronized, now called artistic.

Clubs, federative, technical …

And then there were the clubs, the Metropole Swimming Club, the watchword in Gran Canaria, and the Náutico, Teide and Deportivo, in Tenerife, which also had champions from Spain in their ranks. But to them we must add other entities that have already disappeared, such as Alcaravaneras, Victoria or Unión Deportiva Las Palmas.

But there are not only athletes and clubs, the Canary Islands have also been an important part of the hundred years of the Spanish Federation in other areas of this sport. For example, at the federal level, the names of Ignacio Martel Viniegra, Luis Benítez de Lugo and Ascanio -the historic Marqués de la Florida-, Gregorio Socorro and Fernando Navarro Valle stand out.

On the technical level, highlight the figure of Quique Martínez, a national and international reference. Also note the work of Acidalio Lorenzo in Tenerife, and more recently Fernando Navarro, national technical director, or Rafael Reyes, director of the National School of Coaches.

At the arbitration level, the Archipelago has also provided many prestigious names not only at the national level, but also internationally, such as Ignacio Martel, Manuel Castiñeira and Teresa Valido; then there are the leaders of the Referees Committee, such as Armando Vera, on the island of Gran Canaria, or Mario Pastor, in Tenerife.

And we cannot forget Humberto Trujillo, the remembered Berto, who combined his arbitration duties with journalistic duties in La Provincia-Diario de Las Palmas, a medium that obtained several awards for its informative work, another Canarian contribution to Spanish swimming.


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