Feature16 Aug 2013

Caterine the Great's Moscow triumph makes history for Colombia


Caterine Ibarguen in the womens Triple Jump at the IAAF World Athletics Championships Moscow 2013 (© Getty Images)

The joys of winning spread far beyond Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium for Caterine Ibarguen.

In fact, the impact of her triumph will be felt halfway around the world.

With a hop, step and jump at the IAAF World Championships, the triple jumper became the first Colombian to win a gold medal in the 30 years of the global meeting.

"I made history," said Ibarguen, “and I hope that it’s the first of many (victories) that I and other athletes we will achieve more for my country, it’s proof that we can do it and I hope personally that I will be able to continue to improve."

Only twice before has the South American nation won a medal at the World Championships, Ibarguen herself claiming bronze in Daegu two years ago, just days after Luis Lopez's medal of the same colour in the men's 20km race walk.

She has been stepping up the podium on an annual basis since then. Silver medallist at theLondon 2012 Olympics, Ibarguen climbed to the very top of the dais of by bounding out to 14.85m on her second attempt here in Moscow.

Only she has jumped farther this season, albeit with wind-assistance, when she won at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Eugene with 14.93m at the beginning of June.

Even with the big jump, the South American record-holder said she could not relax until the competition ended.

Anxious moments

“I managed to control my anxiety. In fact, I’m always very nervous and these competitions are very tough but I know now how to control my nerves.

“My coach has created a lot of confidence in me and has given me an incredible mental strength. I believe that is the key to these results in recent years.

"But I was still wary of my competitors throughout the competition," said the 29-year-old. "I know we are all here to do our best and knew that somebody could improve that mark.

“The only time I was convinced of victory was when everyone else had finished their competition and I lined up for my last jump"

No one could match her, though.

Russian champion Yekaterina Koneva came the closest, missing by four centimetres in the second round with Ukraine’s 2011 world champion Olha Saladuha having to settle for the bronze medal.

Based in Puerto Rico and working with the Cuban coach Ubaldo Duani, Ibarguen began her Olympic career as a high jumper at the 2004 Olympic Games and she still holds the Colombian record of 1.93m in the event.

She has best marks of 14.99m in the triple jump, 6.73m in the long jump and 5742 points in the heptathlon, the latter in 2009.

Her triple jump best, achieved at altitude in the Colombian capital Bogota in 2011, is also the South American record.

"I dreamed when I was a young girl to be among the elite athletes and I am very happy, and lucky, that I have been able to achieve this," said Ibarguen.

Her next target is to become part of the elite club of female triple jumpers who have gone beyond 15 metres. 22 women have done it to date but no one from her continent has so far achieved that accolade.

“I was hopefully going to achieve that here in Moscow but it was not to be,” she reflected.

Her life away from athletics has been almost as varied as it has been on the track.

"I love music, I love dancing and I have an obsession for cooking," she said. "I (also) love going to the cinema."

Gene Cherry for the IAAF

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