Victor Lopez: “Cuba is paramount in the development of NACAC and track and field”

Puerto Rican Victor Lopez heads the North America, Central America and Caribbean Athletic Association since 2013. His management will end in 2019. He agreed to talk to CubaSi:

Why Cuba and specially Marabana for this competition?

First of all, I would like to thank Marabana’s Organizing Committee and the Cuban Athletic Federation for allowing us to add this competition to this race.

According to an IAAF order — since Sebastian Coe assumed responsibility—, it is all about inserting street races to those already established all over the world to draw the public’s attention and encourage young people, as they see elite athletes running alongside them. I believe this first edition of NACAC marathon has been a resounding success.

How do you see the area within the current world athletic panorama regarding future events?

The NACAC senior is a very important event and will be held in Toronto in August 10-12. The European and African championships will take place the same week. We hope the main stars can participate as Canada, U.S., and Cuba confirmed their attendance. Can you imagine the quality of this event with all the stars dispersed all over the world?

What’s your view on the track and field in the area and your assessment of 2017?

The area is doing fine. We are having prominent results within IAAF and we hope to continue that way. The Pan American U20 was sensational: thirteen Pan American records and one world record. U17 athletes got awesome results in Nairobi; some of them were even elite marks.

I have two priorities before ending my term as head of NACAC in 2019. The first, it is my goal that all of our events can be televised worldwide as well as the Diamond League. In this regard, we gave shape to a collaborative agreement with one prestigious TV network.

The second is related to marketing. We are sponsored by Puma and Mondo. Inserting our best athletes in quality competitive scenarios leads necessarily to preserving traditions and keep growing.

Years of friendship with Cuba. How is your relation with Cuba both as president of NACAC and Puerto Rican?

Cuba’s helps has been outstanding and your stance in favor of the development of track and field and the rest of sports is unique. The delegate of Trinidad and Tobago told me about his idea of Cuba, a third-world country mired in poverty…

There are limitations as in every other nation of the world. But Cuba has been always willing to help and cooperate with its human resources in first place with any country.

All the islands know Cuba offers its helps unselfishly. That is why we found elite throwers in Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, and Grenada…

That is a perfect example of solidarity in sports, very similar to the one showed with those countries affected by hurricanes this season in Dominica and Puerto Rico.

We have not recovered yet and two months have already passed. I am personally grateful with this country and its people. And as the Lola Rodriguez Tio’s poem reads: we are always the two wings of the same bird.

To highlight NACAC growing power in track and field, the region won 13 gold medals, 14 silver medals, and 15 bronze medals in IAAF World Championship London 2017.

Translated by Sergio A. Paneque Diaz / CubaSi Translation Staff

  • Published in Specials

Diaz set to continue Cuba’s fine triple jumping tradition

Cuba has developed such a strong culture of triple jumping that the hop, skip and jump has almost become synonymous with the blue and white stripes of the Caribbean nation’s flag.

For all their success in the discipline, however, the long list of world-class jumpers they have produced has been unable to eclipse British athlete Jonathan Edwards’s world record.

It seems inevitable that they will eventually claim the mark, when they find a priceless jewel hidden among their many gems. Enter Jordan Diaz.

The young phenomenon, born in Havana, achieved such a magnificent feat at the IAAF World U18 Championships Nairobi 2017 that he stunned the entire global athletics fraternity, including himself.

Entering the competition with a personal best of 16.66m, he made a spectacular statement in the final with a third-round leap of 17.00m.

That distance was all he had really targeted heading into the event, along with the gold medal, but he didn’t stop there.

With his next attempt he catapulted himself across the pit, sailing out to 17.30m and breaking the three-year-old world U18 best of 17.24m held by compatriot Lazaro Martinez.

The vibrant crowd at Kasarani Stadium erupted in shock and awe, and he was given the same sort of standing ovation which had been reserved for the top Kenyan athletes competing on home soil.

His winning margin offers an indication of just how good a jump it was, landing 1.38m farther than his nearest opponent, and he climbed to seventh place on the 2017 senior world list.

While his coach, Ricardo Ponce, had believed in his potential to crack the 17-metre mark, Diaz admits he wasn’t sure if he could achieve the feat.

“Ricardo kept telling me you can reach 17 metres, and I kept saying ‘no way, 17 metres is too far’,” Diaz says.

“Then once in Havana I got close (with his previous personal best) and I thought ‘well, I think I’m capable of doing it now’.”

After being scouted by the International School of Physical Education and Sport in Havana when he was just 12 years old, Diaz initially dabbled in various disciplines, winning the national high jump and long jump titles in his age group in his first year at the institution.

It wasn’t until last year that he channelled his focus into the triple jump event.

Training with two-time world silver medallist Pedro Pablo Pichardo – one of only five men to have jumped beyond 18 metres – the youngster has progressed in leaps and bounds in both literal and figurative terms, and his achievement in Nairobi has made all his hard work worthwhile. It has also given him the confidence that he can go a lot farther than he has already done.

“My aim was to break my countryman’s world youth best, and now that I’ve reached 17 metres I feel super happy,” he says.

“I never really thought I could do that and it proves nothing is impossible.”

Inspired by Taylor

Diaz’s first love outside athletics is hardly a surprise, considering his age, and his interest in music is evident by the headphones wrapped around his immaculate hairdo. He says the reggaeton genre is usually playing through the speakers.

But his real interest lies in the sport at which he excels, and his role model is double Olympic champion Christian Taylor of the United States.

His sudden rise to fame was evident in Taylor’s reaction to his performance in Nairobi.

“How cool is this? Congrats Jordan Diaz! I will never forget this name,” Taylor posted on social media, sharing the video of his world best leap.

Diaz admits that show of confidence was almost as pleasing as his incredible new global mark.

“When I saw it I was with my teammates and I got a little cocky because I was very happy that Christian Taylor mentioned me,” he says.

While Taylor and Pichardo are likely to retain their places at the pinnacle of the discipline for some time, Diaz looks set to carry the next generation.

Studying physical education, the youngster hopes to be a successful coach when he eventually retires from the sport.

For now, the athletics family around the world will be eager to see just how far he can stretch his long legs, though Diaz is keeping himself grounded and doesn’t want to think too far ahead.

“Nobody can tell the future, so we’ll see, but my main objective right now is to be at the World U20 Championships (in Tampere) next year, and who knows what I can jump there.”

The sky seems to be the limit, and he could ultimately take the men’s triple jump to another level.

At this very moment, amid all the hype around the lanky prodigy, it’s easy to forget that he is still just a kid, and he really just wants what all teenagers want: to have fun.

“I contacted all my friends and family after the final and they congratulated me,” he says, his serious expression transforming into a mischievous grin.

“They told me they can’t wait for me to get back so we can have a huge party.”

  • Published in Sports

Twenty-four Cuba athletes will participate in IAAF World Championships

Cuba will attend with 24 athletes the World Athletics Championships of London, England, from August 4 to 13.

The list is headed by women Yarisley Silva, pole vaulter, and Denia Caballero, Beijing 2015 world monarchs; as well as the other discus thrower Yaime Perez, who ranked fourth in that same contest.

It is also notable the presence of decathlonist Leonel Suarez, double Olympic bronze medalist and runner-up in Berlin 2009 WC, and heptathlonist Yorgelis Rodriguez, Toronto 2015 Pan American champion and seventh seat in Rio 2016 Olympics.

The group also includes short hurdlers Roger Valentin and Yordan O'Farril, long jumpers Juan Miguel Echevarria and Maikel Masso, along with triple jumpers Andy Diaz, Lazaro Martinez and Cristian Napoles.

Roxana Gomez (women´s 400m), Yoandrys Lescay (men´s 400m), Rose Mary Almanza (women´s 800m), Liadagmis Povea (women´s triple jump), Yanniubis Lopez (women´s shot put), Zuriam Hechevarria (women´s 400m hurdles), José Luis Gaspar (men´s 400 m hurdles) and Dailin Belmonte (women´s marathon) will also be present in London.

Finally, the men's 4x 400 relay will include Adrian Chacon, Osmaidel Pellicier, Williams Collazo and Leandro Zamora.

In Beijing 2015 WC, Cuba ranked tenth with two gold and one silver medals.

  • Published in Sports

Marisleisys Duarthe won Cuba´s Five Gold Medal

Marisleisys Duarthe could have retired from the girls’ javelin final after the first round and she would have still walked away with the gold medal. But the Cuban continued churning out big throws round after round in an effort to improve on her own world U18 best of 65.44m.

Ultimately she was a couple of metres short of that mark, but she was rewarded with a championship record of 62.92m – a distance no other U18 girl in history has ever achieved.

She opened with 57.83m and improved on that with 57.90m in round two. Her winning throw came in round three; as soon as her spear landed comfortably beyond the 60-metre line, it was clear that the championship record was living on borrowed time. Moments later, the scoreboard confirmed it: her 62.92m added one metre and 45 centimetres to the previous record set by Australia’s Mackenzie Little in 2013.

Although she didn’t throw beyond 60 metres again, she rounded out her series with solid efforts of 55.45m, 54.05m and 58.82m, securing Cuba’s first world U18 javelin title.

As expected, Chinese duo Cai Qing and Dai Qianqian provided her stiffest opposition. It took a while for them to hit top form, though.

Cai was in fifth place going into the sixth round, but managed to pull out a 57.01m effort with her final throw.

Dai went from ninth to second with her 53.55m throw in round three, narrowly missing the half-way cut off. She consolidated her position in round five with a 54.96m effort before being overtaken by her teammate in round six.

Germany’s Julia Ulbricht had been in the bronze medal position from the third round onwards with 53.15m before being bumped out of the medals by Cai. Ulbricht had just one chance with which to respond, and she improved to a PB of 54.77m with her final effort, but it fell just short of a podium position.

Duarthe’s teammate Melissa Hernandez was in second place after two rounds, but eventually finished fifth.

  • Published in Sports

Russell’s championship best highlights second morning

The second day of the IAAF World U18 Championships Nairobi 2017 started on a cool, cloudy Thursday (13) morning with a session featuring qualifying rounds in six events and a number of quality performances.

The highlight came in the final track event of the day, the boys' 110m hurdles heats. Running in the first heat, De'Jour Russell of Jamaica took his personal best from 13.31 (already a world-U18-leading time this year) all the way to 13.08. The time made him the second fastest U18 athlete of all time, behind his compatriot Jaheel Hyde's world U18 best of 12.96.

Russell's time was all the more amazing given his slow reaction time of 0.221 and the fact he slowed down before the finish. With the semifinal and final scheduled for tomorrow, there may be much more to come from the Jamaican who recently clocked a world age-17 best of 13.32 over the senior height barriers.

None of the other hurdlers came near Russell's performance, but there were other notable runs, including the remaining heat winners: Enrique Llopis of Spain with 13.47 (a personal best by 0.25), Lu Hao-hua of Chinese Taipei with 13.57 and Saoud Al-Humaidi of Qatar with 13.72.

The early exit of Zayed Al Shamsi of the United Arab Emirates was also notable. The third fastest U18 athlete this year with 13.43 finished only sixth in his heat in 14.70 and was eliminated.

There was also some extravagant running in the heats of the boys' 3000m. Not content with merely qualifying for the final, the African favourites achieved some extraordinary times, especially considering Nairobi's altitude.

Selemon Barega of Ethiopia took the first heat in 7:55.73 after running the final kilometre in just outside 2:34. The performance took him to third on this year’s U18 world list. Stanley Mburu Waithaka of Kenya was the runner-up in 7:59.54, with Oscar Chelimo of Uganda and Merom Goitom of Eritrea both in the 8:08 range.

The pace of the second heat was only slightly more sensible. Edward Zakayo of Kenya took it in 8:04.85, evidently intent on proving a point to his Ethiopian rival Milkesa Mengesha, who finished second in 8:05.87. The final kilometre took just 2:31 for the winner, much faster than was necessary, considering the first non-automatic qualifier in that race finished some 45 seconds behind.

There were no such displays in round one of the girls' 800m, although the races featured some impressive running. The fastest of the qualifiers for the semi-finals was the Kenyan Jackline Wambui, winner of heat three in 2:08.24, 1.5 seconds ahead of Hirut Meshesha of Ethiopia. The event favourite, Kenya's Lydia Jeruto, took heat one in a relatively pedestrian 2:10.37, but looked strong, running the final 200 metres in about 31 seconds.

The second fastest among the entrants, Ethiopian Netsanet Desta strolled to what looked like an easy victory in heat two, but was subsequently disqualified for a lane violation, leaving Vimbayi Maisvoreva of Zimbabwe the winner in 2:11.09. The final heat winner, in what was the closest of the four races, was the Pole Milena Korbut with 2:11.67.

Sanique Walker of Jamaica, the fastest U18 in the world this year, was also the best in the girls' 400m hurdles heats, qualifying for Saturday's final with 58.74. The Lithuanian Gabija Galvydyte, running in the same heat as Walker, was the second fastest of the day with 58.94, a personal best by a whopping 1.7 seconds.

Chayenne Da Silva of Brazil with 1:00.05 and Zeney van der Walt of South Africa with 59.60 were the other heat winners. One major surprise was the elimination of another South African, Gontse Morake, the third fastest entrant in the event. After fading in the finishing straight, Morake finished fourth in 1:00.59 in her race, not good enough to earn a non-automatic-qualifying spot.

World U18 leader Nermin Stitkovac of Bosnia-Herzegovina led the way in the boys' shot put qualification with a first-round 19.60m, which remained the longest put of the morning. Germany’s Timo Northoff was the only other athlete to reach the automatic qualifying mark of 19.25m with his third-round 19.37m. Turkey's Alperen Karahan was the next best with his 19.00m.

While there were no major casualties in the qualifying competition per se, one medal contender who will be missing from the final is No.2 on the entry list, Jonas Tesch of Germany, a non-starter this morning.

Cuba’s world U18 leader Yaritza Martinez topped the standings in the girls' hammer qualification, needing just one attempt to qualify automatically with 67.90m. None of the other throwers got beyond the qualifying line, set at 67.00m. The other Cuban, Amanda Almendariz, and Gema Marti of Spain got closest, with 66.92m and 66.20m respectively.

There was at least one major upset, with world U18 No.2 Ana Adela Stanciu of Romania eliminated after three fouls. Also not making the final was the Ukrainian Valeriya Ivanenko, fifth on the entry list, whose best valid attempt of 55.91m put her down in 19th place.

  • Published in Sports

Blake and Thompson to Lead Jamaican Team for World Relay

Kingston, Apr 13 (Prensa Latina) Jamaican sprinters Yphan Blake and Elaine Thompson will be the leaders of the Jamaican 41-member team to represent the Caribbean island at the World Relay Race Championship from April 22 and 23 in Bahamas.

The Jamaican press let know the names of the members in the team, after it was known that several times Olympic and World Champion Usain Bolt, and also Olympic star Ann Fraser-Pryce, will be absent, Blake and Elaine Thompson will lead the Jamaican squad to the dispute for the 1st place with the US team in the classification.

The US won the editions of 2014 and 2015, in Bahamas, with 60 and 63 points respectively.

Jamaica is seeking to win the 4x100 female, the 4x200 for men, and also the mixed 4x400 relay.

The Jamaican team will be formed by Blake, Asafa Powell, Warren Weir, Kemar Bailey-Cole, Everton Clarke, Julian Forte, Jevaughn Minzie, Nickel Ashmeade, Rasheed Dwyer and young Nigel Ellis.

Among the female athletes, besides two-time Olympic Champion Elaine Thomson, there will be Sasha-Lee Forbes, Gayon Evans, Simone Facey, Jura Levy, Natasha Morrison and Christania Williams, to reinforce the Jamaican teams for the 4x100 and 4x200 relays.

Olympic bronze medalist Shericka Jackson, Stephanie-Ann McPherson, Christine Day and Dawnalee Loney, will be in the team too.

Athletes from Belarús, Democratic Republic of Congo, Czech Republic, Gambia, Ghana, India and South Africa will be also present.

In the 2014 edition thre 576 competitors, and 669 in 2016.

This edition will have 5 events: 4x100m, 4x200m, 4x400m y 4x800m for men and women, and the mixed 4x400m, for the 2nd day of competition.

  • Published in Sports

Farah Confirms Final London IAAF Diamond League Appearance

London,Oct 24 (Prensa Latina) Double world and Olympic champion Mo Farah has confirmed that his race at the Müller Anniversary Games on Sunday 9 July 2017 will be his last at the IAAF Diamond League fixture in the British capital.

'2017 will probably be my last year competing on the track so I'm really looking forward to running in front of my home fans in London,' said Farah, who successfully defended both his 5000m and 10,000m Olympic titles at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

'It will be a very important competition for me in the build up to the world championships so hopefully I can run well and put on a great show for the fans.'

The most decorated British athlete of all time produced his first double Olympic gold at the London Stadium in 2012 and most recently set this season's world leading 5000m performance at the meeting's 2016 edition, clocking 12:59.29.

'The Olympic Stadium holds great memories for me and with the World Championships returning next year it will be great to run there in July at the Anniversary Games.'

With his heroics in Rio last August, Farah became only the second man to win the 5000m and 10,000m Olympic 'double double'.

He's also won both events at the last two editions of the world championships, adding an even stronger focus to the distance programmes at both the Müller Anniversary Games and IAAF World Championships London 2017.

  • Published in Sports

Putin calls for independent commission with foreign experts to handle Russian doping issue

Russian President Vladimir Putin has urged the creation of an independent commission, with the inclusion of foreign experts, to address problems with the anti-doping system in Russian sports.

"I think it would make sense to address the Russian Olympic Committee with a proposal to establish an independent, I want to emphasize, an independent public commission, which, besides the Russian specialists, would include foreign experts in the field of medicine and law as well as respected public and sports figures," the Russian president said.

Putin added that the main task of the proposed commission would be "strict control over the efficient implementation of the national plan for the fight against doping."

There is no place and can never be a place for any doping in sports,” the Russian president said, telling Russia’s Olympic Committee to work closely with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

@rtsportnews DETAILS: 'CAS rejects the claims/appeal of Russian Olympic Committee & 68 Russian athletes' http://on.rt.com/7jxw

Putin proposed veteran sports official and former IOC vice president Vitaly Smirnov as the head of the independent commission.

According to R-Sport, Smirnov has later agreed to take charge of the Russian Olympic Committee’s anti-doping commission. 

Russian track and field athletes were banned from competing by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) and are on the verge of missing the Olympics in Rio this August after a large-scale doping scandal in the country.

There are also calls for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to ban the whole Russian team from the Summer Games in Brazil, with a fresh report by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) blaming the Russian Sports Ministry and Federal Security Service (FSB) of a doping cover-up during the Winter Olympics in Sochi 2014.

  • Published in World
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