Yarisley Silva is looking to beat her London 2015 jump of 4.75 meters. Photo: Ricardo López Hevia

Sports is once again a hot topic in 2016. Río de Janeiro and its Christ the Redeemer will welcome more than 10,000 athletes competing in over 360 events August 5-21. Forty-seven of these athletes will participate in track and field events, a discipline in which Cuba will attempt to maintain its successful legacy, begun by Félix ‘Andarín' Carvajal’s fourth place marathon spot in the 1904 San Luis edition of the games.

Over recent days, Cuba’s pre-selection athletics team and three main hopefuls: pole vaulter Yarisley Silva, discus thrower Denia Caballero, and triple jumper Pedro Pablo Pichardo, began training in the run up to the important sporting event.

All three have achieved results superior to those demanded by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) to qualify for the global competition. Silva (4.91 meters) and Caballero (70.65), both top the world rankings of their respective disciplines, while Pichardo (18.08) is currently second on the list, after Christian Taylor (18.21) of the U.S.

The IAAF requires athletes to achieve a minimum score of 4.50 meters (vault), 61.00m (discus), and 16.85m (triple jump) to be eligible to participate in the Olympics.

Another athlete to have achieved outstanding results is discus thrower Yaimé Pérez (67.13-third); and the men’s 4x400 meter relay team, with a respectable (2:59.80 minutes) placing the Cubans ninth in the athletics world rankings.
In these events Cuba made the finals of the World Athletics Championships in Beijing, an effective gauge to determine what might happen in Río

In regards to the Cuban team’s performance at the Birds Nest Stadium in Beijing, Daniel Osorio head track and field technical coach highlighted the team’s failure to secure more winning performances, as happened during the Pan American Games in Toronto, “If our most promising had registered or secured their best results, our number of finalists would have been greater than 15,” stated one of the gurus of the discipline, former coach of Iván Pedroso and current trainer to Pichardo of Santiago de Cuba.


Alexander Nava seems relaxed. His calm, that paced and meticulous analysis are what define his character. With just over three months of training Nava is guiding his disciples Silva and Lázaro Borges toward achieving their key goals: “Both Yarita (Yarisley Silva) and Borges have performed well in the general pre-training stage, despite ongoing problems with the mattress cover, which can negatively impact the flight and landing stage of jump technique.

Pedro Pablo Pichardo must leap over 18 meters for a chance to win gold in Río. Photo: Ricardo López Hevia

”Both exceeded this stage’s strength training and explosivity parameters and their results in regards to control, and the eight-step run up were positive. A key element of their preparation lies in intensive circuit training exercises in the gym, in order to strengthen all muscle groups linked to jump technique and increased stamina.

Despite a shaky start, from which she was able to overcome, Yarita’s performance rate for 2015 was between 80-85 %, a positive result. If everything continues this way we will try to compete in three or four indoor competitions prior to the global event, in Portland, the United States (March 17-19) and then continue training with our sights set on the Río de Janeiro Olympic Games. This means her entering the Diamond League competition, continuing to refine her technique, and finally stabilize her grasp above 4.30 meters. If we are able to do this, both the Olympic dream and the five meter mark, will be achievable,” stated Nava.

Pole vaulting is an extremely difficult discipline. Yarisley (28) from Pinar del Rio, standing at 1.61 meters tall and weighing 65 kg will face challenges from Brazilian Fabiana Murer (4.85), Greece’s Nikoléta Kyriakopoúlou (4.83) and the comeback competitor, Elena Isinbaeva (5.06) of Russia.

Raúl Calderón has seen the inside of the Pan American Stadium, watching as discuses trace an orbit through the air, falling many meters away: “This is the key to this first stage; make lots of throws with a heavy discus. Technically speaking these exercises must be accompanied by close to perfect technique, looking to optimize coordination in every stage of the movement, from the first turn to the angle of the arm just before the release.

Both Denia (1.76 meters, 82 kg, 24 years old) and Jorge’s (1.92 meters, 105 kg, 28 years old) physical fitness is currently 100%. With Denia, I intend to finish her first sequence with four trials, and see her throw over 65.50 meters. It’s a crucial year, a long road toward the Olympic podium,” he stated.

Osorio also commented on progress being made by his prodigal disciple, Pichardo: “2015 was a good year for us. We secured good results with space for analysis, in order to perfect our technique. The key lies in coordinating his leap-step-jump rate. We are currently working on his physical abilities, primarily related to strengthening his ankles, his take off, how to further exploit his 14 step run-up after his transition from a three to two step stride. Pichardo is a triple jumper with a low body fat percentage. He is 1.85 meters tall and weighs 71-72 kg during competition season, almost all his body mass is made of active muscle.

His competitive schedule will be less intense this year. Two indoor meets prior to the World Championships followed by five competitions before the Olympic Games. The plan is to give his best performance in the moment of truth,” noted the mentor.

There are other track and field events in which Cuba’s has hopes of achieving notable results, such as the men’s discus, if Fernández is able to reach his past level and exceed the obligatory 65 meter mark; the male and female decathlon with Leonel Suárez and Yorgelis Rodríguez who must secure 8,100 and 6,200 points respectively, before the start of the Games; javelin thrower Yulemni Aguilar (62 meters) and Guillermo Martínez (83.00); Shot put with Roberto Janet (77.00) and Yirisleidy Ford (71.00); and the 110 meter hurdles with Yordan O'Farrill, Johanis Portilla and Dayron Robles (13.47 seconds).

These athletes will bear the weight of the island’s historic Olympic successes, with 14 silver and 15 bronze medals on a list led by the United States (320-251-196), Russia (64-55-74) and Great Britain (53-79-62).