First Athletics Gold Medal for Spain.
Bernardino (Bernar), born in Hernani, belonged to the famous Adarraga Sport Dynasty and he was one of the finest athletes that the Basque Country and Spain ever produced.
As all his predecessors, including his brothers, he stood out as Basque handball player and cyclist. He was good at any sport but eventually had to narrow his ambitions and finally decided to dedicated his efforts to the toughest athletic modality, the decathlon, the all-round athlete test.
San Juan festivals. By eighteen years of age, he was very popular in his home town. Like all the Adarragas he participated, during the Patron Sain festivals in the popular “Atzeri Dantza” (the Bladders’ Dance)* and in the “Soka Muturra” (a bull tied up by a rope, running the streets of town)**
The bull runs free. The “Soka Muturra” bulls are brought to the main square in a truck. Before the run, the cowboy ties a long rope to the bull’s neck. This time before the bull was secure it escaped into the square. Imagine the panic among the crowd for this unexpected visitor. Every body ran in every direction causing a real chaos. Bernardino, who was there with three other mates to take charge of the rope, realizing the danger, got close to the bull, squared himself in front and waited for the bull to charge. When this happened, he managed to grab the bull from the horns and struggle with it until the cowboy arrived and tied the bull. No one was injured!
An appreciative crowd broke into a spontaneous clapping to reward Bernardino’s feat.
Arrijasotzale (stone lifting) Stone lifting is a very popular Basque sports. More popular than the Olympic weight lifting. This year, the festival San Juan feativals organizer decided to include an Olympic weight lifting competition.
There was in Hernani a notable weight lifter, Garayar. He had installed in his farm, a simple gym for his training. He offered Bernar the use of his facilities and gave him good advice. Bernar was very appreciative of the offer and for a couple of days, every week, he would cycle or run to the farm (some 3 Km away)
The day of the Competition, many strong "farm boys" from Gipuzkoa turned out for the event. The fight for the coveted trophy was fierce. The bets were plenty. Towards the end, the weight was raised to 118 Kg. You could see the tension iamong the spectators. You could guess that Garayar was the favoured lifter but he fail in his firt trial. However Bernardino, with a magnificent effort lifted the weight and stood up triumphant. Garayar wasn’t very disappointed, as a good basque he had the consolation that his "protegee" and not another competitor, was the winner.
“Kalehume isateko” What was interesting was the comment of the “baserritarras” (farmers); “Kalehume isateko ongi egin du” (to be a city boy he didn’t do badly)
To hospital. Bernar would not miss the cycling during the festivals. This time he had a nasty accident that landed him in hospital, in San Sebastian.
As usual, the race started from the main square, the “Gudarien Enparantza”, they cross the City Hall tunnel and turn to the right and down, towards the Puerto suburb. Here when the reach the crick, they turn to the left and proceed on this “truck” until Carabel where it meets the main road, coming Balancha. Here they turn right - 90 degrees – and proceed to cross the bridge over the”Urumea” river.
Unfortunately, Bernar could not manage the turn. In part because of the gravel of the road and in part for the stiff turn. He went flying straight, his bicycle embedded on the stony side road protection and landed some 2 metres below at the river side. He fell nose first and his lower face end up hanging from the mandible” What an impressive sight. He was rushed immediately to “Don Leandro Martin Santos”, our specialist, hospital in Eguia, San Sebastian. Poor Bernar!
Actuario de Seguros ( Insurance Actuarial). Bernardino and his cousin Bernar studied for a higher degree and qualified as an “Actuario de Seguros”. After, and like all his brothers he had to migrate for professional reasons. He spent time, first in Orense, later in La Coruña and finally settled in Madrid. But as a good hernaniarra (love of his home town) he never forgot his home town and it was no unusual to meet other brothers for the patron Saint festivals, in Hernani.
Athletism. Like his brothers, he competed under the “H” of Hernani in his truck coat; he competed for Gipuzkoa in the Spanish Championships, and for Spain in the internationals.
Gold Medal and record. Mediterranean Games. I was in the summer Army Camp in Castillejos (Lerida). One Sunday, the 24 July 1955, the Camp Sports Captain came to see me. He handed over to me a copy of the “ABC” newspaper. Covering the whole front page I could see the photograph of my brother Bernardino, cutting de arrival tape of the 1500 m. That was the last test of the Decathlon in the Mediterranean game. Exhausted as he was, he had to hold by his German coach, he could still manage for the press. He had gained the first ever Gold Medal in Athletics for Spain. In the process he had broken the Spanish and Game records. Well done Bernar!
The 1500 m, the last test of the decathlon is the most exhaustive for these giant athletes. They are tall and muscular and to carry all that after 9 other tests in 3 days, and for a middle distance of 1500 is a feat on itself. To win the medal, Bernardino had to win the race. As he was so determine to win he left no effort to chance and in the process he beat his rival by 9 second. He was brilliant.
After this tremendous success he had one more hurdle to overcome. He had his sight on the next year Olympic Games in Melbourne. He had to emulate his uncle Javier (Paris 1924) and brother Juan Bautista, London, 1948.
As I mentioned before, Bernar had a German coach and had to travel regularly to Berlin for coaching. He lived at the time, in La Coruña. For the trip he decided to purchase a car in Hendaye I accompanied him to purchase it and he decided he would keep the car in this city public parking, as it was too dear to take it across the border to Hernani. He asked me to look after it. He asked me to take it for a run, now and the. For this I would displace myself with my fiancée Maria Rosa, in our Vespa motorcycle to Hendaye. Here we would take the car and drive across the beautiful Basque countryside to the nice southern french towns.
Selected for the Olympics. Spain selected a meager 8 members team to Compete in Melbourne. Bernardino was among them. He and the whole family were excited with the news. We had no other theme of conversation during dinner than Bernar’s participation in Melbourne. We had been on the same situation before, when Juan Bautista was getting ready for London.
Now Bernar decides to intensify his training and we saw him more often in Hernani. He would go to Hendaye, drive the car to Berlin; train and in two days he was back among us to exchange news. Back to La Coruña to continue his work.
The end of a golden dream. All was running on wheels for the big one. But fate had it. Russia tanks broke into Budapest and invaded the country. The whole world including Spain, protested, but she decided to go one further. She threatened the Olympic Committee, to withdraw our Olympic team if Russia participated. It must be a bluff, we thought . Four years of preparation, dedication and dreaming and all, down the drain. No it cannot be true. And I was going to miss the kangaroo Bernar promised to bring me! Believe it or not, Spain kept true to his thread. She withdrew our participation while the Russian and Hungarians celebrated in Melbourne. How Quixotic can we get!
of the National Olympic Committee. Everyone knows Bernardino Adarraga
as an outstanding athlete but very few, it is not normally mentioned in
the press, when writing a bout him, know that he was elected as member of
the SOC. We, the Adarragas are very proud of him for it.