Maikel Massó, Cuba's first under-18 world long jump champion. Photo: Jiro Mochizuk

The 63rd edition of Cuba's Barrientos Memorial International Athletics Meet, held May 26-29 in Havana's Panamericano Stadium, produced encouraging results in an event in which the country has a long tradition of Olympic success: the long jump.

Among the eight finalists who reached the minimum length of 7.60 meters in the qualifying stage, taking the podium were Cuban José Luis Despaigne with 7.81m, Mexico's Luis Alberto Rivera (7.95) and the impressive 17-year-old from Santiago de Cuba, Maykel Demetrio Massó, who left behind his personal record of 8.12 meters to jump for 8.28. This was the best jump of the year in the under-18 category, breaking the record of 8.25 set in 1986 by Luis Bueno, in Havana during the 2nd Ibero-American Athletics Championship, and matched the under-20 national record of 8.28 meters, established by Bueno, as well.

Massó qualified for the Río de Janeiro Olympics, set to take place this coming July, on his first attempt, thus allowing Cuba to return to the event with a new contender, looking to gradually recuperate some of the country's success on the continental and world levels.

The young long-jumper has many of the fundamental physical aspects key to the discipline, such as speed, strength, and power, which can all become more evident as his technique improves, essential to the proper execution of the jump. He has not ignored the importance of staying in optimal physical condition, and is known for the competitiveness he shows in sporting events, both points in his favor.

The new record won Massó not only the applause of fans in attendance, but also that of his trainers Juan Gualberto Nápoles and Osiris Mora, who have guided him through daily training, and are committed to keeping the country's longstanding tradition alive.

The current leader in the cadet category ranking had been jumping past the eight meter mark since February, when the traditional Cuba Cup took place, and his scheduled participation in the World juvenile competition, in Poland next month, has made him an indisputable candidate for a medal in Río.

Another promising long-jumper, Juan Miguel Echevarría from Camagüey, an under-20 category athlete who has a record of 8.15 (with wind in his favor) for the year thus far, is also hoping to make it to Brazil, but did not compete in this Barrientos Memorial, due to a leg injury. If his recovery continues, he may participate in the upcoming under-20 world event in the Polish city of Bydgoszcz.

Also outstanding is another long jumper from Camagüey, Maikel Vidal González, who at only 16 years of age has a record of 7.53 meters in the cadet category, winning him a third place ranking in the under-18 category internationally, behind

Brazilian Eberson Silva at 7.72m. His accomplishments make evident Cuba's potential to regain standing in the discipline.

With the Summer Olympic Games just two months away, the national competition coming up in the province of Las Tunas will provide Maykel Demetrio Massó and other contenders to fulfill their training plans. All indications are that the odds will be very even, and competition will be stiff, meaning that athletes' competitive edge will be important to their aspirations.