Caterine Ibarguen celebrates her triple jump victory at the IAAF World Championships, Beijing 2015 (Getty Images) © Copyright
Feature Beijing, China

After Beijing, Ibarguen now eyes Colombia's first Olympic athletics gold

Caterine Ibarguen wrote another glorious page for Colombian athletics, and  South American sport in general by winning her second consecutive title IAAF World Championships triple jump title, this time at the Bird’s Nest in Beijing.

She did in great style by with a wind-legal season’s best of 14.90m in the fourth round, eventually winning by 12cm from Israel’s Hanna Minenko.

“The secret for my consistency is hard training. I have worked step by step to achieve my goal. This gold medal is a great reward for my country. Today, I tried my best in each jump and I enjoyed every attempt.

I wanted to improve my personal best (of 15.31m from the 2014 IAAF Diamond League meeting in Monaco)  but I am very happy with the title. I won a lot of competitions but I still need to win the Olympic title. Rio de Janeiro is my next big goal”, said Ibarguen

In Moscow two years ago, Ibarguen became the first Colombian athlete in history to win an IAAF world title. She has also won at last year’s IAAF Continental Cup title in Marrakesh last year and also the Pan American Games gold medal in Toronto last month.

One year before her win in the Russian capital, at the London 2012 Olympic Games, she also won Colombia’s second Olympic medal in athletics at this event 20 years after Ximena Restrepo’s 400m bronze medal in Barcelona.

However, although she has remained unbeaten for 29 consecutive competitions since losing to Kazakhstan’s Olga Rypakova in London – who won bronze in Beijing on Monday – it remains a bitter-sweet memory that even two world titles cannot erase.

“It was the best and worst day of my life. Best, because to get an Olympic medal is an honour and achievement and I did my country proud: worse, because I trained so hard for London and wanted so much to win gold. Colombia has not won many gold medals in Olympic history (in fact, only two) and none in athletics so I wanted to achieve something unique.”

Ibarguen played volleyball before starting with athletics at the age of 12 in her home town of Apartago.

She was spotted at school by Wilder Zapata and started with high jump in 1996. She later moved to Medellin, where she trained under the guidance of Cuban coach Luis Alfaro and got her first taste of international competition when she travelled to Poland for the first edition of the IAAF World Youth Championships in 1999, although she didn’t qualify for the final.

In the high jump, she won the silver medal at the 2001 Pan American Junior Championships and improved her South American junior record to 1.86m in 2003.

Beijing redemption

However, it is ironic that her latest world title came in Beijing, which was also the venue for 2008 Olympic Games and it was her failure to go to that event, despite being the South American high jump champion the year before, that was the inspiration and motivation for her to change events, although she had dabble in the triple jump before and had a personal best of close to 14 metres.

“In 2008, I did not achieve good results (in the high jump) and I did not qualify for the Olympic Games. I did not make progress and I worked harder to achieve my goals. I moved to Puerto Rico at the end of 2008 to study at the Universidad Metropolitana (Ibaguen has a nursing degree) and train under the guidance of former (Cuban international) long jumper Ubaldo Duany, who realized that I had more potential in the triple jump and the long jump.”

The world title in Beijing has highlighted a magic summer for Colombian athletics, which hosted a memorable edition of the IAAF World Youth Championships in Cali last month, where Ibarguen gave useful advice to youth athletes

“I achieved my lifetime dream and this makes me proud. My sport has opened me a lot of opportunities and has helped me to have a good life. I want to take the chance to encourage young people to practice this sport,” commented Ibarguen.

After winning her second world title, Ibarguen’s season in far from over.

She will compete in the second of the two IAAF Diamond League finals, in Brussels on 11 September, where she could extend her winning streak to the nice round number of 30, and she is one of just a few athletes who have already secured the win in the Diamond Race, needing just to compete to lift her third consecutive Diamond Trophy.

Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF