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Dayron Robles, the Athlete of the Year?

An amazing national record in the men's 110m hurdles, several victories in major European competitions and a gold medal in the Rio de Janeiro Pan Am Games more than make up for Dayron Robles's dissapointing fourth place at the Osaka World Championships, making him the hot tip to win Cuba's Best Athlete of the Year award this year.

No other Cuban athlete had a season as outstanding as Robles. The boy from the eastern province of Guantanamo has proved in 2007 that he's likely to be Cuba's major hope in Beijing.

In the most important competition of the year for all Cuban athletes, the Pan Am Showcase in Rio de Janeiro, Robles faced no difficulties in taking the title and helped Cuba win the track and field event at the Games.

While other track stars were competing in the strongest tournaments running in Europe, Dayron and the best sportspeople of the Island participated in the Rio Games and it took them great part of their efforts in the Pan Ams. Many of them showed signs of exhaustion in the World Championship and that tiredness was reflected in the results of the world contest.

Perhaps Dayron Robles one of the most affected because of the large number of races in little time and he did not even win a medal in the Osaka World Championship. His fourth place disappointed many people who considered him the favorite for the title, even over world-record holder and Olympic champion China's Liu Xian but after that setback he came back to finish the season impressively.

Barely one month after the World Championships, Dayron broke the national record with a time of 12.92 seconds in Stuttgart and thanks to that result he became the fourth fastest man of all time in the men's 110m hurdles. In addition, he achieved a straight six-win streak in European tournaments out-running the same men who had beat him in Osaka.

He faced off Xian in his last season race in Shanghai, Liu's native town. Robles won the Golden Grand Prix before an ecstatic public, thus sending Xian a very clear sign: I will be your main rival in Beijing. For sure Xian received the alert.

Dayron Robles's career has shown extraordinary progress in the last four years. His first great contest abroad was the 2003 World Junior Championship in Sherbrooke, Canada, where he placed sixth. One year later, in another World Junior Championship, this time held in Grosseto, Italy, the Cuban hurdler took silver.

In 2005, Dayron maintained his progression and once again picked silver in the Central American Championship. But starting 2006, Robles's definitive takeoff took place. In Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, during the Central American and Caribbean Games, he amazed the world with his 13.12-second record, which included him among the 2006 ten most outstanding athletes in the country. That record was the preamble to what would happen in 2007. In the last twelve months, Dayron Robles took part in 17 finals, winning 13 of them. An admirable consistency.

Never before had a Cuban runner dipped below the 13-second barrier. Dayron, 20, was able to go below 13 seconds by far and now appears to be bearing the torch of Cuban tradition in short hurdles.

In the 1970s, Alejandro Casañas made the awarding podium in three straight Pan Am Games. Three decades later, Anier García, against all predictions, took the Olympic title in the 2000 Sydney Games. Now, it's Dayron's time.

The best athletes of the year are announced on the final days of December but predictions are launched a long time before. A strong battle draws near in diverse categories this year, above all when it comes to choosing the best female athlete in individual sports because the list includes Driulis Gonzalez and Yargelis Savigne involved in a very difficult contest; however, when mentioning the same category among men, everybody aims at Robles.

Dayron Robles will be 21 years old on November 19 and has a world of possibilities ahead of him because he combines talent and youth successfully. Will he be able to maintain discipline and rigor in training? Under the careful and experienced direction of Santiago Antunez, Robles will compete at the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Valencia, in March 2008, an excellent opportunity to show that the Osaka story won't repeat itself next August in Beijing.

Source: Radio Habana Cuba

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