Category Archives: sport

Barcelona Blog: The last man standing

Start of the race

This week, Barcelona has been playing host to the European Athletics Championships. The men’s marathon was passing right outside my window this morning and despite not knowing a jot about any of the athletes, I popped outside to cheer them on.

With the start and finish line two minutes from my door in Passeig de Picasso, the athletes had to run four 10km laps of the city, taking in Arc de Triomf, Gaudi’s Batlló and the soon to be defunct Monumental bullring along the way.

The route was clearly devised by a sadist. Not only was the race scheduled to finish at midday in 30 degree heat but as the circuit looped round Parc Ciutadella for the final time, the runners came within metres of the finish line, only for the route to whisk them off yet again along the seafront.

If sadists dreamt up the route then only masochists were running it. Catalans flee Barcelona in August. Fierce temperatures and even higher humidity make anything other than lolling in the shade very unpleasant indeed. Running 26 miles in such conditions doesn’t even bear thinking about.

I missed Viktor Röthlin romping home to victory for Switzerland and José Manuel Martínez taking silver for Spain (I somehow managed to end up behind a tree and a grandstand) but I eventually found a good spot from where I could cheer on the rest.

Barcelona had come out in force to cheer on the athletes and there were big crowds at the finish line. Everyone that made it to the end got warm applause but none more so than Andorra’s Alan Manchado Vila.

A good twenty minutes after Röthlin crossed the finishing line, a cheer came up from my left. Thousands of heads turned to see Manchado, in last place and with several kilometres still to go, run round the corner. We watched in horror as he made the fatal mistake of looking over forlornly at the finish line. It was too much for the man. He pulled up to a stop with the ambulance staff and race officials primed and ready to scoop him up. But the crowd weren’t having it. As the poor man gasped for breath, head in hands, the applause got louder and louder. There were shouts of ‘Vamos!’, ‘Allez!’ and ‘Keep Going!’ The race officials hovered and looked at their watches. Manchado looked hesitant and then started walking. The crowd went wild.

Alan Manchado Vila finishes race

As the last few stragglers crossed the finish line, we had no idea if our man from Andorra was going to make it. Some people wandered off but the vast majority stayed put. There was a man still out there on the course and he deserved to be cheered home. We waited. And waited. A full 57 minutes after Röthlin, we saw the lights of the back-up ambulance and the nodding head of Alan Manchado Vila. He was running again and a crowd of well-wishers had sneaked onto the course to run along with him. To deafening cheers, arguably louder than for those of the winners, he rounded the final corner, applauding the crowd right back as he did so. 19 men never made it to the finish but he did. It was a wonderful moment and proof that sometimes, it really isn’t the winning but the taking part that counts.


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War of the Titans: Lucha Libre in Chile with Kishi (Yes, His Bum Does Look Big in That)

As Teatro Caupolican filled up on Saturday afternoon, March 28, moms and dads grazed on high-calorie snacks while kids (and disturbingly a few grown men) slipped on their wrestling masks, newly acquired from the merchandise stand. Ringside, a group of teenagers wearing Viking helmets posed for the TV cameras. Unfeasibly loud death metal pumped from the speakers.

Now in its fifth year, Revolución Lucha Libre (“Free Fight Revolution”), Chile’s answer to WWE, was about to start and the crowd was ready to rumble (see photos).

First up, in a three-on-three bout, the fighters entered the ring to a soundtrack medley of reggaeton, rap and metal. Mister Boogie and Cano snarled at the audience while The Black Cambodian Warrior, in an unforgiving pair of black latex shorts, camped it up like a novice transvestite, dry humping the corner posts and his fellow opponents at every opportunity.

If you don’t know anything about wrestling, fear not–you don’t need to. This is entertainment, pure and simple, and the only rules that are followed are those of a Christmas panto, right down to the exaggerated acting, confused sexuality and audience participation. The wrestling holds may have looked rehearsed, but the kids didn’t care and neither did the grown-ups.

As the referee was knocked out in the second bout and Crazy Sid pinned Gaston Mateo for a win, the little ones stood on their chairs for a better view and everyone cheered.

Santiago Chile Lucha Libre Photo by Sofia Carvajal

After several more bouts of drag queens versus clowns, Mexican Mariachis against school teachers and a fake bloody end to The Coyote’s hopes of fending off The Bull, it was time for the main event.

Four thousand anxious fans, with cameras at the ready, strained their necks to catch their first glimpse of Samoan-American wrestler Kishi in the flesh, and what a lot of flesh there was to see. Weighing in at a massive 360 kilograms, Kishi is a mountain of a man, with a rear the size of a small country and a serious cellulite problem.

Pitted against him was Ariki Toa from Easter Island, who was tiny by comparison. Comedy ensued as Ariki tried and failed to lift the big man. Realizing that his only chance would be from a height advantage, Ariki leaped from the ropes, his fall broken by the soft, squidgy flesh of the Samoan. As Kishi got up, fans recoiled in horror–he had a wedgie and it wasn’t pretty.

Santiago Chile Lucha Libre Photo by Sofia Carvajal

Ariki reverted to dirty tactics and the crowd got behind Kishi, squealing, “Vamos Kishi Vamos!” with delight as he performed his signature move, the “Stink Face.” His opponent won’t forget that in a hurry. A few minutes later it was all over as Kishi won the Chilean Major title with a pin hold.

As Kishi held up his new belt in a blaze of glory and pyrotechnics, the other fighters charged into the ring and a free-for-all ensued. It got a bit nasty as the bad guys started to throw tantrums like big babies, but it ended well with a song and a dance and the audience left happy, treading potato chips into the carpet as they went.

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Filed under chile, Features, Santiago de Chile, sport, Travel articles, Wrestling