Cuba’s Juan Miguel Echevarría, Caterine Ibargüen of Colombia and the Domadores de Cuba boxing team were the winners of the Prensa Latina’s annual sports survey that has been honouring the best athletes in Latin America and the Caribbean since 1964.
In a close call Echevarría scraped the title by only seven votes beating Argentinian soccer star Lionel Messi in the poll of 116 press agencies in twenty-five different countries across North and South America, Europe and Asia.
In exclusive comments to CubaPlus Echevarría said this acknowledgement represents a new attainment in his sporting career, above all for outranking the South American soccer player, a five-time Golden Ball winner who has won every possible club-level title at least once in his time at FC Barcelona.
This past season the twenty year old long jumper took the world indoor title in Birmingham, UK and won the World Challenge in Ostrava as well as the international meetings in Bad Langensalza and Guadalajara. He dominated the podium at the Stockholm Diamond League and in Karlsruhe, and took silver in Rome and Metz, France.
Among the season’s many achievements an impressive 8.83m jump stands out, which despite not being legal for a tailwind of +2.1 (up to +2.0 would have been legal) showed the world that this young athlete stands a real chance of breaking the world record of 8.95m held by the USA’s Mike Powell since 1991.
Colombian jumper Ibargüen was named best female athlete this year, for the fifth time, making her the most prolific female winner in the history of the Prensa Latina poll.
Olympic champion at Rio in 2016 Ibargüen previously took the title in 2011, 2014, 2015 and 2016, and was this year’s highest scoring female athlete by far.
In the current season the Colombian athlete took triple jump and long jump titles at the Continental Cup, the Diamond League and the 2018 Central American and Caribbean Games in Barranquilla.
She notched up the year’s most outstanding triple jump at 14.96m that equalled her career best sixth jump and was the longest since the jump that gave her a taste of Olympic triumph at Río de Janeiro 2016.
But her merits also extended beyond victories in her preferred specialty to the long jump as well, where she had previously had little success. This year she took on the world’s top athletes including Olympic and world champions and not only elevated her personal best to 6.93m but also dominated most of the tournaments where she competed.
Thanks to her exceptional performance this season she was named this year’s female Athlete of the Year by the IAAF.
Domadores de Cuba became the first boxers to be voted best team in Prensa Latina’s sporting poll, breaking with the historic tendency for a soccer or volleyball team to take the title.
The Cuban boxing squad’s biggest achievement this year was at the 8th World Series where they defeated Kazakstan’s Astana Arlans 7-3 to take their third World Series title.
Coached by Rolando Acebal the team clocked up a total of thirty four victories in forty five fights, a roster that scored them the Prensa Latina title by thirty five votes ahead of the Peruvian and Brazilian national soccer teams.
Island’s Best Discus thrower Yaimé Pérez and Boxer Andy Cruz were voted Cuba’s top athletes in the individual sports category. As usual sports journalist as well as national and provincial sports authorities were polled.
Hockey player Sunaylis Nikle and baseball player Alfredo Despaigne reigned in the team sports category, and Domadores de Cuba took the team title. Wrestling was chosen as the outstanding individual discipline while field hockey was the team sport of the year.
Canoeists Serguey Torres and Fernando Dayán Jorge were voted best non-individual athletes, a category that acknowledges disciplines that are not individual but do not classify as team sports either where athletes compete in pairs or small groups. Wrestler Luis Alberto Orta was voted rookie of the year in a category that always produces interesting results.
Special mentions went to a group of ten star athletes that featured cyclists Arlenis Sierra and Marlies Mejías, boxer Julio César La Cruz, gymnast Manrique Larduet, jodoists Idalyz Ortiz and Iván Silva, long jumper Juan Miguel Echevarría, wrestlers Yowlys Bonne and Lianna de la Caridad Montero and combined events specialist Yorgelis Rodríguez.
In a newly-added category, the World Wrestling Championships in Budapest, Hungary were voted sports event of the year, in honour of Cuba’s first world championship medal in women’s wrestling—a bronze brought home by Lianna de la Caridad Montero.