Denia Caballero in the discus at the IAAF World Championships, Beijing 2015 (© Getty Images)
Denia Caballero did not take long to clinch Cuba’s first-ever gold medal in the women’s discus. On her first attempt, the fourth throw of the competition, she produced a massive 69.28m effort which stood up for the rest of the competition.
Caballero did not stop there. She had four of the five farthest throws of the final as she held her rivals at bay.
It took until the 58th of the 60 throws in the final for defending champion Sandra Perkovic to summon a challenge. But her final-round effort of 67.39m, though good enough for the silver medal, was not enough to cause Caballero to break sweat.
Until Perkovic’s final gambit it looked like two medals for Cuba. Yaime Perez, who defeated both Perkovic and Caballero at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Lausanne, had moved into third place with 65.46m in the final round.
Perkovic also pushed Germany’s Nadine Muller down from second to third. Like the winner, Muller had done her finest work early, with a first-round throw of 65.53m.
Although Maritza Marten won the Olympic gold medal in Barcelona in 1992, Cuba has had to wait until now for a world champion.
Previously, all the Caribbean nation’s four World Championships medals in this event had been won by one woman – Yarelis Barrios – who took silver behind Franka Dietzsch in Osaka in 2007 and behind Dani Samuels in Berlin in 2009, and then bronze in both 2011 and 2013.
Perkovic had last year become the first woman in 22 years to throw beyond 70 metres, but Caballero topped that with a 70.65m stunner in Bilbao in June. Despite that, she had not beaten Perkovic until Tuesday night’s final, though she did enjoy a competitive edge over Perez. Accordingly, the form was hard to read.
Caballero’s first throw made all of that irrelevant. Certainly her rivals took time to respond. Perkovic had a first-round foul and took three rounds to move into a medal position. 2013 silver medallist Melina Robert-Michon was never a contender. USA’s Gia Lewis-Smallwood, one of the few to beat Prekovic in recent years, likewise did not make the top eight.
Samuels, too, took several rounds to get into her stride. Her first throw was a forgettable 53.56m and her best of 63.14m in the fourth round gave her sixth position overall.
Though Caballero did not improve on her first-round effort, she had throws of 65.97m and 66.55m in the fourth and fifth rounds – good enough to have led at that stage – and a final effort of 66.58m.
The 25-year-old Caballero came into 2015 with a best of 65.60m and a best global championships result of eighth in the 2013 World Championships final.
She stands now as a 70-metre thrower, the best in the world for 24 years. More importantly, she is Cuba’s first gold medallist in the event at a World Championships.
Len Johnson for the IAAF