Medal Sweep for Cuba’s Youngest Spells Bright Future
By Julio César Mejías Cárdenas, Photos: Prensa Latina
The Cuban delegation’s historic achievement at the recent World U18 Championships in the Kenyan capital Nairobi bodes well for further athletics success in the near future.
With five gold medals, two silver and one bronze, Cuba came third in the overall medals rankings, its best ever result in a junior event of this kind. This result beats the fifth place ranking achieved in 2005 in Marrakesh, Morocco where the team gained three golds, two silver and two bronze.
Cuba was only surpassed by South Africa (5-3-3) and China (5-2-4). In points classification that takes into account not only medals but rankings between fourth and eighth place, Cuba came eight with 73 points, despite the team only having thirteen members.
As usual Cuba’s jumpers and throwers gained the best results. Amanda Almendariz and Yaritza Martínez took gold and silver in the hammer throw with throws of 71.12m – a season best for Almendariz – and 69.75m r espectively.
Discus thrower Silinda Morales dominated her event with a throw of 52.89m. Meanwhile in the javelin Marisleisys Duharte’s 62.92m throw was enough to take gold and break the competition record, even though it fell well short of her 65.44 m personal best, which constitutes the best recorded result in the category. Her fellow discus thrower Melissa Hernández also had a good competition finishing fifth with a throw of 53.02m thus raising the team’s standing in the points rankings.
The remaining medals all came in jumping events. Long-jumpers Maikel Vidal and Lester Lescay awed the crowd at the Kenyan city’s Kasarani stadium, taking gold and silver respectively. To beat his compatriot, Vidal had to top his personal best by three centimeters reaching 7.88m on his third attempt, an incredible result for his age. Lescay showed his teammate no mercy finishing only nine centimeters away from the title at 7.79m, a personal best for this athlete too.
Cuba’s successes culminated in a world record for Jordan Díaz in the triple jump hitting 17.30m, an achievement that consolidated Cuba’s status as a world leader in athletics across categories, age groups and sexes.
Cuba’s other triple jumper Yusniel Jorrín (15.88m) was only one centimeter away from the bronze medal, and his fourthplace ranking still brought points for the team. The podium in this event was in fact entirely Latin American, with silver going to Ecuador’s Frixon David Chila (15.92m) and bronze to Arnovis de Jesús Dalmero (15.89m) from Colombia. With this year’s medal haul in Kenya, Cuba now holds a total of eighteen gold, thirteen silver and fourteen bronze medals at U18 World Championships standing eighth in world historical rankings.
Win some, lose some It is not all rosy for Cuban athletics though, since its team came away from the recent World Championships in London with more heartbreak than medals, seemingly unable to exorcise the ghosts of the 2016 Rio Olympics where discus thrower Denia Caballero took bronze scoring the team’s only medal.
In London again there was just a solitary bronze medal taken by Yarisley Silva in the pole vault (4.65m), the third major medal for the athlete after a gold in Beijing in 2015 and bronze in Moscow in 2013.
Although there were no other medals, other Cuban athletes achieved notable results. Long jumper Maykel Massó came fifth with an 8.26m jump at only twenty years of age. Triple jumpers Cristian Nápoles (17.16m) and Andy Díaz (17.13m) took fourth and fifth place respectively, shot-putter Yaniuvis López came eighth (18.03m) and Cuba came sixth in the men’s 400m relay. Despite gaining points for the team, the event was a disappointment for discus throwers Yaimé Pérez (64,83 m) and Denia Caballero (64,37 m) who came fourth and fifth respectively, both throwing well below their personal bests leaving medals out of reach.
Heptathlete Yorgelis Rodríguez on the other hand deserves a special mention, who not only placed well but broke the national record with a score of 6594 points and breaking personal records in three of the seven events in this punishing category: the 100m hurdles, high jump and the 800m. His result didn’t classify for a medal but would have taken silver at the Beijing World Championships, highlighting the strength of his efforts as well as the exceptional levels of talent he was up against at the London games.
Several younger athletes performed well despite not achieving medals, with results in line with their personal bests, including Roxana Díaz (400 m), Rose Mary Almanza (800 m), hurdlers Zuriam Echevarría (400 m hurdles), Roger Iribarne (110 m hurdles) and Yordan O’Farrill (110 m hurdles). Again, these results bode well for Cuban athletics in the long term but in the immediate future, ahead of the Panamerican Games in Baranquilla (2018) and Lima (2019), Cuba’s coaches and athletes will need to up their work.