Yipsi Moreno at the 2000 Olympic Games (© Getty Images)
World champions Yipsi Moreno and Osleidys Menendez produced the highest notes of the Cuban National Championships, held over three days at Havana’s Estadio Panamericano, considered as their first test towards the Pan American Games in Santo Domingo and the World Championships in Paris, in August.
Moreno, 22, added 47cm to her national record when she threw the 4kg implement to 72.47 in her fifth attempt, with three other throws over 70.50, in a close contest with Yunaika Crawford, who improved her personal best to 70.69 in the last round. The previous national standard was 72.00, set on February 14.
“I started the competition a bit anxious, knowing that I had the record in my hands and following 73-meter plus throws in training. I know I can go farther and equal my coach Eladio Hernandez’ 73.44 PB,” said a happy Moreno, who expects to meet France’s world leader Manuela Montebrun in the European circuit before Paris.
Later on the same day, javelin world record holder Osleidys Menendez started the season with a world-leading 63.96, ahead of 2001 Edmonton bronze medallist and 2000 IAAF Grand Prix winner Sonia Bicet (60.75). Bicet took the early lead with her only over 60-meter throw to Menendez’ 59.13 start. But the 23-year old regained the No. 1 spot with 63.96 in the following round and backed it up with three other 61-meter plus efforts.
“I am still far from my best shape and I have to continue working on technique, specially in the last part of the run-up so I should correct that as I compete more. But the result is very encouraging and I am confident I will improve progressively”, commented Latin America’s only woman to have ever broken a world senior record, when she took the javelin to 71.54 in Crete, on July 1, 2001.
Both Moreno and Menendez aim to achieve a golden double in the Pan American Games and the Worlds this summer.
A heavy rain affected the first day of the event and Olympic champions Anier Garcia (110-meter hurdles) and Ivan Pedroso (long jump) opted not to compete to avoid any risk of injury.
Katiuska Perez, a former 1,56-meter tall sprinter and hurdler, improved her pole vault record twice (4.10 in the first attempt and 4.20 in the third) to erase her 4.05 meter standard from last year and virtually secure a spot in the national squad for the Pan Am Games.
In the much-awaited men’s triple jump, with athletes jumping into a head-wind, Yoandy Betanzos found no major threat from his rivals and won with 16.94, followed by 2003 Birmingham World Indoors bronze medallist Yoelbi Quesada, who only managed 16.55, and 2002 Kingston world junior champion David Giralt (16.52).
Two other Kingston princesses, Anay Tejeda and Mabel Gay, dominated the 100-meter hurdles and the triple jump with 13.13 seconds and 14.25 meters, respectively. The latter landed 4cm short of her personal best.
Yusneysis Santiusti, 18, broke the 1500 meter national junior record after a close battle with winner Adriana Muñoz, who clocked 4:15.43 to Santiusti’s 4:15.68, much better than the previous best (4:18.22).
With Jany Tamargo (4:16.28) in third, it was the first time that three Cuban women went under 4:17 in the same race and they are now targeting the national senior record (4:13.08), owned by Ana Fidelia Quirot since 1997.
The new generation of Cuban athletics showed its great potential as three other juniors claimed the national title: Mauri Surell in 1500 (3:45.48), Yarianny Arguelles in the high jump (1.88) and Yudelkis Fernandez in the long jump (6.53).
Sergio Hierrezuelo bettered his personal best when winning the 400-meter hurdles in a decent 49.46.
In his second decathlon in three weeks, Alberto Juantorena Jr., son of the two-time 1976 Montreal Olympic champion and IAAF Council member, finished second with 7413, aided by a 7.57-meter long jump and a 2.09 high jump.
As part of their preparation for the Pan American Games, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Antigua & Barbuda, the Dominican Republic and the Netherland Antilles sent teams to Cuba. Mexico, with 10 athletes, obtained 1 gold, four silver and a bronze.
Romary Rifka added 2cm to her personal best to 1.88 and shared the high jump gold with Yarianny Arguelles, while Francisco Bautista finished second in 5000 and 10,000 under very hot and humid conditions.
Heliodoro Navarro grabbed silver in 800 and bronze in 1500, and Gustavo Castillo finished second in the 3000 metre steeplechase.
Manuel Repollet, second in the shot put, was the highest-ranked Puerto Rican athlete, while Dominican Republic’s Juan O. Almonte was third in the two-lap race. Her countrywoman Maria Spencer, long and triple jump gold medallist in the 2002 El Salvador Central American and Caribbean Games, finished fourth in the long jump.
Action will return to the Estadio Panamericano on Saturday with the Barrientos Memorial, the area’s oldest track meet (founded in 1950) and all eyes will be focused on Yipsi Moreno’s new attempt to add more centimeters to her national hammer record.
2003 Cuban champions
100: 10.54 Alexander Reyes
200: 21.38 Juan A. Pita
400: 45.93 Yerman Lopez
800: 1:51.04 Jose Luis Ricol
1500: 3:45.48 Mauri Surell
5000 & 10.000: 14:18.80-29:37.42 Norbert Gutierrez
110 H: 13.69 Yuniel Hernandez
400 H: 49.46 Sergio Hierrezuelo
HJ: 2.21 Lisvany Perez
PV: 5.10 Frank Cespedes
LJ: 7.72 Yoelmis Pacheco
TJ: 16.94 Yoandri Betanzos
SP: 19.65 Alexis Paumier
DT: 59.78 Frank Casañas
HT: 71.85 Yosvani Suarez
JT: 80.62 Isbel Luaces
Decathlon: 7543 Yonelvis Aguila
20km W: 1:28.18 Jorge L. Pino
100 & 200: 11.60-23.45 Roxana Diaz
400: 52.20 Livania Grenot
800 & 1500: 2:01.07-4:15.43 Adriana Muñoz
5000 & 10.000: 16:15.91-34:45.38 Yudelkis Martinez
10.000: 29:37.42 Norbert Gutierrez
100 H: 13.13 Anay Tejeda
400 H: 59.65 Dayami Lara
HJ: 1.88 Yarianny Arguelles
PV: 4.20 Katiuska Perez
LJ: 6.53 Yudelkis Fernandez
TJ: 14.25 Mabel Gay
SP: 18.89 Yumileidi Cumba
DT: 59.14 Ana E. Fernandez
HT: 72.47 Yipsi Moreno
JT: 63.96 Osleidys Menendez
Heptathlon: 5842 Magalys Garcia
20km W: 1:41:35 Yaimara Perez