Leandro Bolmaro has become one of the most fun-to-watch young players in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague. The tall playmaker has shocked fans with his athleticism, which he developed as a promising track and field prospect, one of the best of his generation in Bolmaro's native Argentina. His time spent running and jumping helped Bolmaro develop coordination, quickness and core strength, all of which were key traits in his basketball growth, too.
"I started with track and field at an early age, when I was 5-6 years old because my sister was doing it. It became more and more important for me and I started to like it a lot," Bolmaro said. "I had to drop it when I was 15 because I had to choose between basketball and track and field, and ended up choosing basketball. It was a tough choice, but I am very happy playing basketball now."
"I had to choose between basketball and track and field... It was a tough choice."
Bolmaro was a multi-discipline athlete. In 2014, he became the Argentinean U14 heptathlon champion, an event that combines the 100-meter hurdles, long jump, javelin, high jump, shot put and the 800m. Even after he started playing basketball, Bolmaro kept collecting medals in the octathlon (100m dash, long jump, 110m hurdles, high jump, 400m, shot put, javelin throw and the 1,000m) as well as the high jump with his club, Almafuerte de Las Varillas. Bolmaro explained that the keys to his track and field success were coordination and technique.
"When it comes to hurdles races, it is important to work on your coordination. If you have to do a high jump, you have to work on stretching your back, as well as on jumping skills. If you get the right skills, speed helps you to do it well," he said. "Hurdles and high jump were my strengths. I high jumped 1.94 meters and had 6.80 or so in the long jump."
Once he started playing basketball, Bolmaro had two role models he looked up to, one in each sport. In track and field, it was eight-time Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt. In basketball, he idolized Argentinian hero Manu Ginobili.
"I always followed Bolt. I enjoyed each of his races and each tournament. He should have tried the long jump! I am sure he would have been the best, or one of the best, if he learned some jumping skills," Bolmaro said. "Ginobili was my idol since I was a kid. I watched a lot of his games. He is one of the greatest, the best Argentinean basketball player of all-time. What he did in the NBA and everywhere else was amazing. I have a long way to go to be like him!
"I haven't met him personally but we have talked on FaceTime. He gave me a lot of advice and encouragement. His versatility was amazing and everything he did seemed to come naturally. He also had a lot of self-confidence and experience. The Golden Generation is historical in Argentina and having the chance to contact some of them, even know some of them, is a dream-come-true. We have a very good generation of players now and a good national team. I believe we will go for more."
One of his dreams is going to the Olympic games and if Argentina qualifies, Bolmaro will try to do his best to go to the athletics stadium and sneak in to see the event.
"I still want to do track and field sometimes. Sometimes I feel like I would love to go back to the track and do high jump and all other things I did, but I am focused on basketball, and I want to become a better player every day," he said. "I still watch a lot of track and field tournaments on TV. It is very entertaining. I love to watch people do what I did and then I like tests like 400m, 400m hurdles, and the shorter races, 100m and 200m. But of course, high jump and long jump are my favorites. I love it."
Even though his father Osvaldo was a basketball coach, Bolmaro made his decision to give up track and field when he realized he couldn't practice both sports at once. It was his friends, however, who turned him into basketball.
"My father played basketball when he was young and then became a coach. I always went to see him practice, so I started to like basketball and at the same time, all of my friends at school played basketball, and they had a great time playing, so that is a little bit how I started to play basketball when I was 10," Bolmaro said. "I did both sports until I was 14-15, I went to track and field practice and then to my basketball practice, together with school and tournaments. I ended up dropping track and field to become a professional basketball player."
His physical background, jumping over hurdles and running short distances, paid off in basketball. Bolmaro explained how doing so many different things on the track turned him into an all-around player.
"I worked a lot on my coordination to jump over hurdles and that coordination helps me in basketball," Bolmaro detailed. "In between hurdles, you have to take three steps. If you take four, you could kill yourself or lose the race! So I always had to take three long, firm steps while focused and I am sure that helped me with basketball, too. It was easier for me to drive to the basket, I suppose.
"It was hard, but if you put together coordination and skills, it could be done. I could say the same about high jump; you have to start from scratch and little by little, with good coordination and the right skills, you get better. It is also the same for havelin, discus, shot put... I did a little bit of everything. I believe I tried all the track and field events! All that helped me a lot to be more athletic. Maybe if I hadn't competed in track and field, I would be a terrible basketball player. I believe it helped me a lot."
Bolmaro is now in a great environment to further develop his basketball skills, too, with a head coach who won four EuroLeague titles as a legendary point guard and a teammate in Nick Calathes, who has lifted the EuroLeague and the 7DAYS EuroCup trophies and is on his way to reaching 1,500 assists in his EuroLeague career.
"I worked a lot on my coordination to jump over hurdles and that coordination helps me in basketball."
"Practicing with 'Saras' and Nick Calathes, you learn something new every day. I look at what he does and it is amazing. Saras was a great player and he played point guard, too, so that helps a lot, each piece of advice and also each correction," Bolmaro said. "I try to listen to them and become a better player every day, but just practicing with them helps me a whole lot."
He is making the most of this chance and is focused on getting better and better.
"I love Barcelona: the city, the club and its organization. I like the way people work here and I am very thankful for the opportunity the club gave me. They took their chances with me and gave me a lot of confidence, so I have to give it back. I am really focused on that."