Puerto Rico's Javier Culson (194) powers home to 400m Hurdles gold ahead of Felix Sanchez (extreme left) at 22nd CAC Athletics Championships
Puerto Rico´s Javier Culson confirmed his good form as he beat Dominican Republic’s 2004 Olympic champion Felix Sanchez in a much anticipated 400m Hurdles final on the third and last day of the 22nd CAC Athletics Championships at Havana’s Estadio Panamericano (5).
Six more records fell on the final day as Cuba easily dominated the championships, winning 27 out of the 43 events contested.
Over 420 athletes from 29 out of the 35 CACAC member nations are attending the Championships. Among the notable VIP guests are IAAF President Lamine Diack, NACAC chairman and IAAF Council Member Neville McCook, and CACAC President Victor Lopez.
The Bahamas' World and Olympic multi-medallists Pauline Davies, Mexico’s Cesar Moreno, both IAAF Council members, and Trinidad and Tobago’s 1976 Olympic champion Hasely Crawford also attended the athletics celebration.
Culson has serious Berlin ambitions
Sanchez led from start to the 300m mark, but Culson changed gear and his experienced rival could not respond. The Puerto Rican went on to win his first CAC title in a new championships record of 48.51, his third fastest time this year.
“I was desperate in the first two hurdles, but tried to maintain my pace and accelerated in the last 100m. That’s where the race is decided. I am happy to give a gold medal to my country. I am happy with the time, considering the weather. I hope to carry the Puerto Rican flag very high in Berlin, “said Culson, who will have four races ahead of Berlin. His next outing will be the AF Golden League stop in Rome, on 10 July.
Sanchez was rewarded with his season’s best of 48.85, also inside the previous record. Jehue Gordon of Trinidad and Tobago rounded out the top three with 49.45.
“I had a slow start. I hit the third hurdle and made a mistake in changing the pace at the sixth hurdle. I knew I had to run 48.4-48.5 to beat Culson. It was not possible. I will keep pushing and trying hard. I feel well and I will have 3-4 races to adjust my pace”, commented Sanchez.
Quality Triple Jump sees Copello beats Sands by 4cm
In another much anticipated final, Cuban Alexis Copello finally savoured the taste of victory at the CAC Champs with a championships record of 17.33 in the third round, better than the 17.29 set by two-time champion and 2008 Olympic bronze medallist Leevan Sands in 2005.
“This is a very important title to win at home. I had some minor problems in the run-up, but I corrected it with the help of my coach. I never thought of the record. I just focused on technique and the win. I believe we will carry our good form to Berlin. We are staying healthy and support each other. We hope for a very successful performance in Berlin,” stated Copello.
Fourth in Nassau 2005 and third in Cali 2008, the 23-year old Olympian beat four-time world championships medallist Yoandri Betanzos (17.24), who had all his five jumps over 17 metres.
As countries are allowed up to two athletes in every event, 2008 World Indoor silver medallist Giralt´s 17.46m effort did not count for the medals but the Cuban trio confirmed they are ready for Berlin.
Champs record goes in men’s 800
Another duel between Olympic finalist Yeimer López and defending champion Andy González of Cuba led to the former breaking the latter’s event 800m record with a 1:45.56 run, ahead of Gonzalez (1:46.62). Gavyn Nero of Trinidad and Tobago (1:47.51).
“I came to break the CAC Champs record. I was very motivated to know my wife and mum were supporting me from the stands. I should do 3-4 good races before Berlin. I have learned to run 800m. I need to run more good races to perform better in a final like Beijing,” he said.
2005 World champion Zulia Calatayud led from start to finish to take the women’s 800m in 2:01.63.
19m for the first time
Winner in 2001 and 2003, Misleydis González of Cuba, the 2008 Olympic fourth place finisher regained the Shot Put title with a 19.13m effort, the first toss over 19m in the history of the Championships.
“I am happy to break the record in front of my own crowd. I am also happy to see that my compatriot López improved her personal best and pushed me to achieve such result. I have been close to the medals in major competitions and I hope to win a medal in Berlin,” said Gonzalez.
Her countrywoman Yaniuvis López improved from bronze to silver with a personal best of 18.81m, ahead of defending champion Cleopatra Borel-Brown of Trinidad and Tobago (17.98m).
More Cuban success in hammer; Eve lets go of title in the Javelin
World championships finalist Arasay Thondike regained the women’s Hammer gold for Cuba with a 71.32m release, a new CAC Champs record, followed by Rosa Rodríguez, who set a new Venezuelan mark of 69.06, and Colombia’s South American champion Johana Moreno (67.66m).
After seven crowns, including five consecutive ones, since 1989, the Bahamas´ 43-year old Laverne Eve ceded the Javelin gold to Cuba’s new find Yainelis Ribeaux (59.68m). Former World champion and record holder and 2004 Olympic gold medallist Osleidys Menéndez was second with 58.69m, ahead of Eve (55.54).
Jamaica takes a gold, two in fact, at last!
Jamaica finally enjoyed the taste of gold on the final day thanks to Nickel Ashmeade in the 200m and Nickiesha Wilson in the 400m Hurdles (56.95).
World Junior silver medallist Ashmeade’s victory came a few minutes earlier as he clocked 20.54 into a 1.1 m/s head wind, well clear of Trinidad and Tobago’s Rondell Sorillo (20.72) and Jamaican 2007 World Youth Champion Ramone McKenzie (20.74). Defending champion and 100m and 4x100m winner in Havana, Emmanuel Callender (TRT) failed to make it to the final.
“It feels pretty well. I just came here to do my part and came first. I am happy for that. I am quite pleased” with the result, he said.
Anguila gets its first, first
Two-time CAC Games medallist Virgil Hodge took the women’s event in 23.41 into a -1.2 m/s head wind and over a wet track following a heavy rain. Hodge gave Saint Kitts and Nevis its second gold in two days, the first women’s titles for the tiny nation in the history of the championships.
Shara Proctor leapt 6.61m in the Long Jump to give Anguila its first gold ever in championships, ahead of Trinidad and Tobago’s 2006 World junior champion Rhonda Watkins (6.47m), Saint Kitts 4x100m relay starter Tanika Liburd (6.42) and Bahamas´defending champion Bianca Stuart (6.31).
Pan American Games bronze medallist James Grayman won the second gold ever for Antigua and Barbuda after a 2.19m clearance in the High Jump, as Yudisleivis Castillo completed a 5000m-10,000m double with an event record in the shorter distance (16:03.68).
Angela Figueroa claimed Colombia’s only gold after a 10:03.44 effort in the 3000m Steeplechase.
Hosts take relays and confirm overall supremacy
Cuba won both 4x400m relays. Indira Terrero, the 400m winner, anchored the Olympic finalist squad to comfortable 3:29.94 victory. The men’s race was hotly contested and 800m winner Yeimer Lopez came from fifth in the last lap to overtake Felix Sanchez in the last meters to take gold in 3:03.26. Dominicans clocked 3:03.30 and Jamaica finished third in 3:04.09.
Cuba ratified its regional supremacy with 53 medals (27 gold, 19 silver and seven bronze), ahead of Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago (2-5-7). Puerto Rico (2-0-4) and Saint Kitts and Nevis (2-0-1) followed. Thirteen countries won at least one gold medal and athletes from 20 nations stepped on the podium.
A total of 11 championships records fall and there were two world leading marks by 2007 world champion Yargelis Savigne in the Triple Jump (14.97) and 2008 Olympic bronze medallist Leonel Suarez in the Decathlon (8654).
Javier Clavelo Robinson for the IAAF
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