Colombian triple jumper Caterine Ibarguen on top of the podium (© Getty Images)
World triple jump champion Caterine Ibarguen ended her season on a high note as Cuba easily dominated the athletics at the 22nd Central American and Caribbean Games, held from 23-30 November in Xalapa and Veracruz, Mexico.
Unbeatable since the 2012 Olympic final, Ibarguen opened her series with 14.37m to erase the 16-year Games record of 14.34m set by Yamile Aldama. She then confirmed her victory with 14.57m in the following round.
“It is a great way to end the year and contribute to Colombia at the Games,” said Ibarguen, who improved on her silver medal from four years ago in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. She was joined on the podium by Cuba’s two-time world junior champion Dailenis Alcantara (14.09m) and fellow Colombian Yorsiris Urrutia (13.89m).
Her compatriot Flor Ruiz produced a massive personal best by three-and-a-half metres in the javelin with a fifth-round effort of 63.80m, breaking both the South American record and eclipsing Sonia Bisset’s Games record of 63.30m set in 2006.
Cuba’s two-time world medallist Guillermo Martinez regained his regional crown with a 79.27m throw. He had won in 2006 but his country was absent in the 2010 edition.
Redemption for Barrondo
Six days after being disqualified from the 20km race walk, Guatemala’s Erick Barrondo redeemed himself with a commanding win in the 50km event. The Olympic silver medallist triumphed in 3:49:40 to take almost six minutes off the Games record, set 21 years ago by Cuba’s Edel Oliva.
Defending champion Andy Gonzalez led the Cuban performances on the track. The 2011 Pan-American Games champion successfully defended his 800m title with a photo finish win over Colombia’s Rafith Rodriguez in a repeat of the 2011 Pan American Games final.
Gonzalez ran 1:45.73 to prevail over the Colombian by 0.01. Puerto Rico’s Wesley Vazquez, a 1:44 performer this year, settled for third in 1:46.05.
One day earlier, Gonzalez clinched the 1500m gold in 3:45.52, with another strong finish to beat Mexico’s Pablo Solares (3:45.62) and Christopher Sandoval (3:47.55).
In only his second race of the year, World Championships fourth-place finisher Omar Cisneros set a season’s best of 49.56 to take the 400m hurdles. Mexico’s Zudikey Rodriguez was the women’s winner in 56.79.
Another double for Barrios
Juan Luis Barrios completed his third consecutive double in the history of the Games to bring his medal haul to seven gold medals. To the 1500m-5000m doubles in 2006 and 2010, he now added the victories in 5000m and 10,000m.
The men’s 400m also produced good performances at the Heriberto Jara Stadium, taking advantage of Xalapa’s 1400m altitude. Venezuela’s Albert Bravo set a national record of 45.21 in the semifinals, but Cuba’s 800m specialist Raidel Acea was the fastest when it mattered most, with a personal best of 45.36 in the final. His compatriot Yoandys Lescay (45.56) and Bravo (45.82) joined him on the podium.
Dominican Republic’s Juander Santos, the younger brother of world and Olympic medallist Luguelin Santos, ended his junior career by joining the sub-46 club (45.93). The final also included 2012 world indoor gold medallist and defending champion Nery Brenes, who finished eighth in 46.82.
In the field events, Ernest Reve returned to the fore and led a 1-2 for Cuba in the men’s triple jump. The world indoor silver medallist landed at 16.94m to beat world junior champion Lazaro Martinez by three centimetres.
The only successful title defenders from the 2010 edition of the Games in Mayaguez were Trinidad and Tobago’s Cleopatra Borel in the shot put, Mexico’s Juan Luis Barrios in the 5000m and Saint Lucia’s Lavern Spencer in the high jump. Mexico’s Horacio Nava, who won the 50km race walk in 2010, won in the 20km event this time.
In total, 12 Games records were broken, 10 of them by women. The last one came on Sunday when Mexico’s Margarita Hernandez ran 2:41:16 in the marathon in Veracruz. The men’s winner was Cuba’s Richer Perez (2:19:13).
The most decorated athletes were double individual winners Brenda Flores and Juan Luis Barrios. The Mexican duo took the 5000m-10,000m double as Cuba’s Andy Gonzalez did in 800m and 1500m.
After taking gold in the 100m with a national record, Venezuela’s Andrea Purica led her team to another victory and national record of 43.53 in the 4x100m relay. Two other double winners were Cuba’s Lisneidy Veitia and Raidel Acea in the 400m and 4x400m, with the Cuban men setting a Games record of 3:00.70 in the latter.
Cuba easily dominated the athletics tournament with 46 medals (23 gold, 15 silver and eight bronze), ahead of Mexico (8-11-10), Colombia (5-9-10), Venezuela (4-5-4), Guatemala (2-1-1), Dominica (1-0-1), Honduras, Saint Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago and the British Virgin Islands, with one title each. In total, 19 countries won at least one medal.
IAAF vice president Sergey Bubka attended the Games, which marked the competitive farewell of three-time world hammer champion and two-time Olympic silver medallist Yipsi Moreno of Cuba.
The next Central American and Caribbean Games will be held in Barranquilla, Colombia, in 2018.
Javier Clavelo Robinson for the IAAF