Cuban hammer thrower Yipsi Moreno (© Getty Images)
Cuba’s three-time world champion Yipsi Moreno ended a successful career on a high note by breaking her own Games record in the hammer to provide one of the main highlights of the first four days of the athletics at the 22nd Central American and Caribbean Games in Xalapa, Mexico.
The two-time Olympic silver medallist sent her implement out to 71.35m in the fifth round to erase her Games record of 70.22m, set in 2006.
“I am very happy with the win. For the first time I was at the same level as the other athletes in the region. I have been focused on my master’s degree and did not train as much as I would normally do. I just wanted to win. The record was a surprise. Now it is time to dedicate myself to my five-year old son,” said an emotional Moreno, who started her major championship career 17 years ago when winning the Pan American junior title.
She still holds the area record of 76.62m, set in 2008.
Her countrywoman and world indoor pole vault champion Yarisley Silva soared to 4.60m, which was also a Games record, and a season's best for the athlete after missing a lot of the outdoor season.
“I took a month off after (the IAAF Diamond League meeting in) Monaco. I confronted some psychological challenges, but my coach and family were very supportive along the way and this win is for them,” commented Silva.
Host nation Mexico also took its share of glory, especially on the track.
Across a span of three days, Brenda Flores defied Xalapa’s 1400 metres of altitude and took the 5000m gold in a Games record of 16:02.64. Two days earlier, she had won the 10,000m.
Two-time Olympic finalist Juan Luis Barrios confirmed his status as the most decorated middle-distance runner in the history of the Games by taking the 5000m gold in 14:15.98, his sixth title in four Games, including the 1500m-5000m double in both 2006 and 2010.
He will bid for his seventh gold in the 10,000m final on Thursday (27).
Other home victories in the first half of the athletics programme came from Zudikey Rodriguez in the 400m hurdles, clocking 56.79, and Mario Cota in the men’s shot put with a heave of 19.30m.
Betancourt’s record finally broken
Cuba’s Denia Caballero broke one of the Games’ oldest records by throwing the discus to 64.47m, better than the 63.76m set by her compatriot María Betancourt on home soil in Havana back in 1982.
“I wanted a better mark, but the weather conditions did not help. I am glad to see my name of the records list and be able to contribute to the Cuban medal tally,” said the two-time World Championships finalist, with fellow Cuban Yaime Perez getting the silver medal with 62.42m.
Another notable result came from Cuba’s Rosemary Almanza, the 800m winner with 2:00.79. Her compatriot and world junior silver medallist Sahily Diago finished a distant fifth with 2:05.51.
Yordani Garcia, third in the 2014 IAAF Combined Events Challenge, was on course for a much higher score in the decathlon, but eventually settled for the win with 7854 after a rainy second day.
More Cuban victories were provided by 800m specialist Raidel Licea, who took a surprise win in the men’s 400m in 45.36, Lisneidys Veitia took the honours in the women’s 400m in 51.72 while Jorge Fernandez and Roberto Janet won the men’s discus and hammer with 63.17m and 74.11m respectively.
Athletics provided the first gold medals for Honduras, Saint Lucia and Dominica at these Games.
Honduras’ 2009 World University Games 200m champion Rolando Palacios took the men’s 100m in 10.27, just holding off Barbadian junior Levi Cadogan, who was given the same time.
Saint Lucia’s Levern Spencer successfully retained her high jump crown with a best of 1.89m while Dominca’s David Registe leapt 7.79m to win the men’s long jump final.
Chantal Malone, from British Virgin Islands, took the women’s long jump with 6.46m.
Venezuela’s Andrea Purica improved the 100m national record twice in two days, especially when it mattered most and clinched the gold medal with 11.29.
Lina Maria Florez gave Colombia its first victory on the track with the current South American champion beating her countrywoman Brigitte Merlano in the 100m hurdles final, with both women timed at 13.19.
The athletics tournament started with the 20km race walking events.
Horacio Nava took the top honours for Mexico in the men’s race with 1:25:05 with Guatemala’s Olympic silver medallist Erick Barrondo being disqualified about a kilometre from the finish line as he attempted to regain the lead.
Guatemala’s Mirna Ortiz got the first athletics record of these Games with her 1:35:43 effort in the women’s race.
Held in the historic Heriberto Jara stadium, the Games athletics programme lasts until Sunday (30), when it ends with the men's and women's marathon.
Javier Clavelo Robinson for the IAAF