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Cubas showing at Osaka World Athletics
No World Championship is easy and athletics competition is among the most difficult sports because it is practiced everywhere on the planet.

Athletes from more than 200 countries compete and there is no distinction between professionals and amateurs. And there is money at stake; $100,000 US for setting a world record; $60,000 for each champion and prizes going to the first eight finishers in each event.

The World Championships are held every two years, during the year preceding and year following the Olympic Games.

For Cuba, the year before the Olympics is also the year of the Pan American Games, the islands priority sports competition of the year.

In years when there are no Pan American Games, like in Edmonton 2001 and Helsinki 2005, Cuban athletes can concentrate on preparations for the World Championship and can be expected to do better.

This year, while other countries athletes were immersed in the European circuit as a tune up, Cubas athletes returned to the island from Rio de Janeiro on July 30, and did not compete again until the World Championships, struggling with the 13-hour time difference upon arriving to Japan.

Its not about questioning the importance of the Pan American Games, where Cuba was the winner in Athletics. Its about seeing the importance of the World Championship "widely covered by international television", and the need to be ready for both, requiring a major effort, courage and will power from the athletes and trainers.

Some Hispanic sports writers that we have known for years asked us what happened with Cubas performance, beacon of Latin America for years.

They showed joy when Cubas Yarelis Barrios won the islands first medal, bronze in the discus; when Yipsi Moreno won silver in the hammer throw, coming two centimeters from the gold; and especially when Yargelis Savigne won the triple jump with her spectacular 15.28 meters.

In Helsinki 2005, Cuba won six medals, two gold and four silver, to finish fourth in the medal standings and eighth in points with 10 athletes among the first eight in their disciplines.

The performance in Osaka (besides recovering Osleidys Menedez being unable to compete in the Javelin) only produced half the medals (1-1-1) and 11th place in the medal chart and ninth on points with 43. On the bright side, Cuba once again managed to have ten finalists among the top eight including the womens 4 X 400 relay.

The competition was very tough with industrialized countries like France, Italy and Canada, hosts of previous World Championships, unable to win a gold medal and ending with only two silver medals each. The same happened to Japan, this years host who despite millions of fans only managed a bronze medal on the ninth and final day of competition.

As it also preceded the Pan American Games lets compare Cubas Osaka performance with Paris 2003.

In France, Cuba won two medals, one gold and one silver, finishing also in eleventh place on medals and 18th on points with 33, with seven finalists.


During the closing day of Osaka 2007 on Sunday, Cubas javelin thrower Guillermo Martinez finished ninth with an 82.03 meter hurl despite an 87-meter throw on his record, and a strong arm. "My legs didnt respond; I had never competed with a day between the qualifying and the finals; I feel good, Im not disappointed; thats how the javelin is," said Martinez.

The womens 4 X 400 relay team came within a hundredth of a second of their qualifying time on Saturday (3:27.05 to 3:27.04) and finished seventh of the eight finalists ahead of Mexico. Runner Aymee Martinez expressed satisfaction: "Im satisfied considering it was my first time on the team and the fact we were among the eight best relay teams in the world."


The United States dominated the Osaka World Championships with 14 golds in the 47 events while another 21 countries won at least one of the remaining 33 gold medals. Winners in many speed events the US only lost the womens heptathlon and had two athletes with 3 gold medals: Tyson Gay (100, 200 and 4 X 100) and Allyson Felix (200, 4 X 100 and 4 X 400). Bernard Lagat, formerly a competitor from Kenya but nationalized in the US won two gold medals in the 1,500 and 5,000 meter events.


The rest of Latin America suffered the same handicap of centering on the July Pan American Games. Highlights included Ecuadors Jefferson Perez winning his third 20 km walk, Panamanian Irving Saladinos historic win in the long jump and silver medals in the hurdles from Dominican Felix Sanchez and from Brazilian triple jumper Jadel Gregorio.

In the English speaking Caribbean, Jamaica finished with 10 medals (1-6-3) in eight place on the medal chart and fourth on points with 98 thanks to having 20 finalists including the four relay events.

Neither Jamaica nor the United States had taken their top athletes to the Pan American Games, deciding to concentrate on Osaka.

Source: Enrique Montesinos, Granma

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