August 3, 2016 / 5:15 PM / 3 years ago

Cuban-born hurdler Ortega targets Olympic medal for Spain

(Reuters) - Cuban-born Orlando Ortega is targeting a medal at the 110m hurdles event after receiving the green light to compete for Spain at the Olympic Games.

Cuba's Orlando Ortega competes to win the men's 110m hurdles event of the IAAF Athletics Diamond League meeting at Stockholm Olympic Stadium, July 30, 2015. REUTERS/Fredrik Sandberg/TT News Agency

The 25-year-old was the world’s fastest man over the 110m hurdles in 2015 with a personal best of 12.94 but was initially considered ineligible to represent Spain in Rio because of a regulation conflict.

‘’I got the best present ever when I was told on July 29th, the day I turned 25, that I could compete at the Olympics,’’ Ortega told Spanish radio station Cadena Cope. ‘’I was overwhelmed with joy.

‘’I’ve been given an opportunity and I’m going to give my best. I’m going to fight for a medal.’’

Ortega, who finished sixth at the 110m hurdles final in London four years ago, defected from Cuba during the 2013 World Championships in Moscow.

Although the IAAF stipulates a three-year gap for those switching flags, the Spanish Athletics Federation successfully argued that Ortega, who only became resident in November 2013, had been living in the country earlier.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) also applies a three-year time-frame dating from when the athlete last competed for his country of origin.

Ortega qualifies because he last ran for Cuba on August 12, 2013 and is not due to compete in Rio until August 16.

‘’It has been a difficult three years,’’ said Ortega, who has a best of 13.04 seconds this year and has just won the Spanish Championships in 13.09 seconds. ‘’It’s a pleasure to represent Spain and it was a dream of mine since I arrived to this country three years ago.

‘’Another dream was to compete at the Olympics. I have one dream left to accomplish and that is to win a medal.

‘’Since I started with athletics, my dream has been to win an Olympic medal. I’m not a medalist yet.

‘’It’s true that I’m one of the best in the 110m hurdles event but anything can happen. I’m just going to give everything in the final to finish in the podium.’’

Reporting by Adriana Garcia; Editing by Neil Robinson

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