Next Friday 14th opens the World Para Athletics for disables at the Olympic Stadium of London.
It will be the eighth edition of these competitions. A total of 1 074 athletes from 92 countries will participate. They will struggle for the medals in the 213 sports included in the event.
Still fresh in the memory are the spikes, wheelchairs, guides, and joy cries when crossing the finish line left two years ago in Doha, when the participation record was shattered (1 230 sportsmen) and Cuba won place tenth among nations, with seven gold medals and two silvers, in China (41-26-18). Everyone remembers the flight of Omara Durand and Leinier Savón, especially Durand, winner of three medals and so many awards.
Her steps, and the shadow of her tall shape, flashing speed and her rivals breathing at her back ratified her as the fastest woman among the participants in the category T-12 (visual impairment) winning the 100-meter race in 11.48 seconds, the 200 meters in 23.03 and the 400 in 53.05.
Again Omara and her guide Yuniol Kindelán are the best choices for the Cuban team, who according to Coach Miriam Ferrer, have options to win medals in almost every competition they are in. One detail: Omara and Yuniol had officially trained together that same year in the Parapanamerican Games of Toronto.
Today it can be said they’ve reached great mastery in synchronization, since the reaction to the shot and the erect posture, to the arm swing and the strides on the track, what makes them one of the great attractions of the competition. In fact they both starred one of the promotional spots of the appointment.
Looking Inside the Bull’s eye
Cuba will have seven sportsmen in London and in advance I admit some nostalgia will hand over us because Yunidis Castillo, the daughter of wind, will be absent. Even when in Cuba we have some talents in-the-rising like Savón, Ernesto Blanco and Valerys, we will always miss Yunidis’s feats. Luckily her absence doesn't seem definitive.
Back to our main characters and despite counting on other athletes who could win, it’s worth highlighting that besides Omara and Savón, Luis Felipe Gutiérrez and Leonardo Díaz know what it means to win in a world competition. Let’s then take a closer look on our seven sportsmen:
Omara Durand: She is the fastest woman on earth among disables. We can surely rely on her. She has reached an excellent degree of understanding with her guide Yuniol Kindelán, to the point that their Coach Miriam Ferrer foretold another world surprise. Outgoing, she considers family, and especially her daughter Erika are two priceless treasures. Her favorite distance is the 200 meters and though she admits to be better in the second halves of the race, nowadays she is a very complete runner.
Leinier Savón: Omara’s peer among men. He hardly measures 1.63 meters, but he has a devilishly sprint, hence his reaction after the shot and the first 50 meters his strong points while running. He began the long jump and again he will participate in this sport in London. He has corrected his stroke technique, especially with his left arm and he already won the Paralympics medal. He holds a record of 10.61 in 100 meters, 22.06 in 200 and 6.74 in long jump.
Luis Felipe Gutiérrez: He can win in the long jump as well as the high jump. In the later he even seeks to break the world record which he holds with 2.06. Luis Felipe is really complete athlete, he also runs the 100, 200 and 400 meters and triple jump with world record included. Of course he must stretch over the 7.50 if he wants to win a medal in the long jump. This athlete of 1.85 meters high and 29 years old since Beijing 2008 has entered the elite panorama.
Leonardo Díaz: Redemption is the word in the case of the disc thrower from Granma province. He admitted not to be at his best in the technique, but he will reconquer the medal he lost in Rio de Janeiro, where the disc only reached 43.58 meters. If he is able to get close to his 45.32 meters, he can look forward to a medal. He began at age 18 in this discipline after an accident left him paraplegic when he was in the military service.
Ernesto Blanco: He was the surprise after winning in the 400 meters of the T-47 category. He crossed the finish line with his last breath, but he admits that when he feels OK, you have to count on him. With 29 years old and 1.96 meters high, he doesn't look like a sprinter and that makes you wonder from where he draws strength, because he is quite skinny. The truth is that those 48.79 seconds won him the number one in the ranking. Miriam always follows him closely, but he trusts her if she tells him that he is ready to "changanear", that is, to fight in the popular jargon.
Valerys Larrondo: Beginner in these competitions the 27 year-old young from Villa Clara can be the secret weapon or the ace up the sleeve. Without official records in world competitions, his progression has been unquestionable in the last year. He earned his place in the team and Miriam thinks that he can battle for a medal.
Well my friends, these are some important points of our seven sportsmen. Starting this Friday it will be known what they are made of in the Olympic stadium of London, perfect prelude for the World Championship that will welcome the same scenario next August.