Three Olympic medallists, three different roles but one ‘garra’: Spain’s London 2012 feeling in evidence 12 years later

13 Apr. 2024

Three Olympic medallists, three different roles but one ‘garra’: Spain’s London 2012 feeling in evidence 12 years later

Marta Lopez, Veronica Cuadrado and Jessica Alonso have very different roles with the Spanish women’s national team at the 2024 IHF Women’s Olympic Qualification Tournament #2 in Torrevieja, but all share something very special – an Olympic Games bronze medal.

Right wing Lopez, Team Manager Cuadrado and Team Official Alonso all played for their nation at the London 2012 Olympic Games and are now in Torrevieja representing Spain once again.

Their side has already sealed the ticket for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games after a 31:21 victory over Czechia and a 26:23 win over Argentina and the feeling in the 2024 team is reminiscent to the one in the squad put together 12 years ago by coach Jorge Duenas.

“It's the same spirit, the same kind, because what I saw [against Czechia] is that spirit which was missing in other championships,” said former line player Cuadrado to

“We try to give them this feeling and I saw the same that we had with the team in London; we were like a group, a team more than a national team, and that's the feeling and the spirit of our Spanish team; the ‘garra’ (courage and spirit).”

Opening and closing against Korea in 2012

In London, Spain went all the way to the final day to claim a place on the podium after an additional time victory over Republic of Korea in the bronze medal match with Alonso scoring the final goal in the 80th minute to secure a 31:29 victory.

Exactly two weeks earlier, on Saturday 28 July, Spain threw-off their campaign against the same team, losing 27:31 in their preliminary round opener. 

An 18:18 draw against France followed but then wins came thick and fast – four in a row, with victories over Denmark (24:21), Sweden (25:24) and Norway (25:20) in their remaining preliminary group games, before a 25:22 quarter-final victory over Croatia.

Montenegro stopped their run in the semi-final with a 27:26, victory, but Spain got revenge over Korea for bronze, defeating them after two periods of additional time.

Cuadrado, who was 33 years old at London 2012, scored 13 times in London, including four in the bronze medal match, a dramatic encounter which saw the teams tied 24:24 after 60 minutes and 28:28 after the first period of additional time, before the Europeans powered ahead in the second period, outscoring Korea 3:1.

And it was that opening day loss which inspired Spain to their first – and only – women’s Olympic Games medal.

“When you are in the Olympic Games and you lose your first match by four, it was a result that changed our minds; we were destroyed,” said Cuadrado, who played for Randers HK in Denmark at the time of the Games.

“We then came together as a group, talked about it and said to each other ‘this is not acceptable, this cannot happen again’. From there, we had to go up.”​​​​​​

Lopez injury replacement in 2012, integral in 2024

Later on, a 22-year-old Lopez came into the squad for their final preliminary game against Norway after Carmen Martin got injured and now, 12 years later, the right wing is an integral part of the Spain squad looking to return once again to Olympic action.

“She came in a point of the Olympics where maybe she didn't feel like part of the team completely because she came in due to an injury,” explained Cuadrado about Lopez, who played her club handball for Spanish side BM Alcobendas at the time. 

“But right now she’s a really, really big part of the team and very important. The difference now is that she has more experience and can give more much more to the team, it's another kind of role to the one she had then.”

Giving advice, sharing memories

For the trio of medallists, their roles may be different in 2024, but their purpose is the same – to inspire, push and help the team play to their absolute maximum and, ultimately, win medals.

“When we talk with the younger players we say to them that they really have to feel what it is like to be in an Olympic Games, to breathe it and to see how all the athlete are prepared for the moment, a moment which is the maximum for any athlete to achieve,” says Lopez, now 34 years old and playing for CS Rapid București in Romania.

“I was so excited at the end of the bronze medal match that I cried because I did not expect to have the opportunity, but now, I want to take this opportunity and try to be part of it and enjoy it one more time.

“I have to say I am really shy talking about this (the medal),” she added. “If the players don't ask me I don't like to talk about it, but I'm proud. The girls know and they show respect and ask you, because, in the end, I’m an experienced player.

“It's completely different when you win a medal; either Olympics, World or European. It’s completely different to be on the podium, it’s amazing and the maximum that you can get, but even to be in an Olympic team is a dream and we all go for this now.”

“If they don't ask me then I don't talk about it,” added Cuadrado about if she has talked to the current squad about that Olympic feeling. 

“But, if they ask me, I tell them and they start dreaming about it. It’s something that all athletes look to; it's the dream of everybody that plays any kind of sport – it’s your goal in your sporting life and I want that the girls that are playing now to feel the same things that I felt when I was a player.

“Now, when I look at my Olympic Games medal in my display cabinet at home, it is like something normal, something that is part of the house, but it's also something very special for me because this is my favourite medal, the most beautiful,” she adds.

“It's also the medal that I have the most feelings for. When I won it, it gave me the most feelings and I would love that these players go to the Olympics and have the same experience that I had.”

Another day, another game

The 10-goal victory against Czechia on Thursday and the 26:23 win against Argentina on Friday once against showcased that ‘garra’.

“If you asked me after training [the day before the Czechia game] we had a bad feeling that we were not sure about what will happen, but also that a lot of us were really excited to come and play,” explained Lopez ahead of their opener in Torrevieja.

“But I have to say that the key [against Czechia] was that we really enjoyed the game so much and had fun – everybody could see that.”

‘Garra’ continues to run through the Spanish squad and Cuadrado, Lopez and Alonso will hope to show the world it once more again in France this summer.