Cuban heptathlete Yorgelis Rodriguez (© Getty Images)
Yorgelis Rodriguez is Cuba’s leading heptathlete, but despite being just 23 years old, the all-rounder has still had some ups and downs in her career.
The bronze medal at the 2018 World Indoor Championships is definitely the highest point in my career so far.
It was a historic medal for athletics in Cuba, the first one for a woman in a major senior competition in combined events. I came close at the 2017 World Championships in London and the medal finally came.
Birmingham was also my first experience indoors. It was fun to do the pentathlon and compete in a smaller stadium.
I had a great World Championships in London, but I could not manage the pressure well on the second day. The anxiety to perform well took its toll, especially in the long jump, and I missed the medals.
The bronze medal in Birmingham gave me a lot of confidence to compete with the world’s best heptathletes and it really showed later in Götzis, where I improved my personal bests in the 100m hurdles, 200m and the shot put to move into 6700-point territory. I also had my best long jump under any conditions.
For me, the turning point was the Olympic Games in Rio, where I finally improved the national record to 6481 to finish sixth overall. That’s when I started to believe I could be among the world’s best. I had spoken to the previous national record-holder, Magaly Garcia, and she really encouraged me to work hard to break her record and aim higher.
My coach Gabino Arzola told me I could be up there with the best. I had already sensed in training I was ready to improve the national record.
I give a lot of credit to Gabino. I have been training with him since 2015. He puts a lot of emphasis on physical conditioning to be able to perform well throughout the seven events. Technique is equally important, but it works when you are fit. This conditioning has allowed me to recover fast between events.
Training with (two-time world and Olympic medallist) Leonel Suarez has also been a great encouragement to pursue bigger dreams. He is very serious about training and is always motivating me. He is like a second Gabino.
Not winning the world junior title in 2014 was a big disappointment.
I was the defending champion and I really wanted to end my junior career with another world title. I had improved my personal best to 6231 and was very motivated. But the 24-hour trip from Havana to Eugene took its toll.
I only arrived in Eugene one day before the start of the competition and I felt really tired on the second day. (Rodriguez took the silver medal with 6006, 40 points higher than her winning score from 2012.)
Things did not come out as expected. I did not have enough experience to find an explanation for my poor performance. I learned that over time and I know it’s part of sport. I do not dwell too much on a below-par performance. I recover by training hard and looking ahead to the next goal.
Reflecting on my success, I remind myself why I chose combined events and the fun involved in doing various events over two days. I’ve always enjoyed the variety and the camaraderie combined events provide.
2018 was my best year so far and I would like to build on that success. I am still very young in the sport and I know there is a lot of room for improvement. I have good support from my team and my family to continue to aim higher in athletics.
Javier Clavelo Robinson