OFFICIAL VOICE OF THE COMMUNIST PARTY OF CUBA CENTRAL COMMITTEE
The legendary Alberto Juantorena made history with his two Olympic gold medals in the 400 and 800 meters in Montreal 1976. Today, Yoandys Lescay from Las Tunas is a worthy heir to his legacy. Photo: www.britannica.com

AMONG the successes of Cuban athletics in the Río de Janeiro Summer Games, some of the least noted are the individual performances of the 4x400m men's relay team members.

The team's unquestionable accomplishment was given its rightful place - a 2:59.53 time, equivalent to 1,199 points on the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) scoring charts.

It was noted that the time was just 40 hundredths more than the national record established 24 years ago, the 2:59.13 achieved in the Barcelona semifinals, worth 1,205 points, only six more. The occasion also called for some reflection on differences in individual performances.

Barcelona 1992 was a milestone for the 4x400 in Cuba, winning a silver medal with a final time of 2:59.51. That is practically identical to the time registered by the team that placed sixth in Río. And further back in time, we could recall the disqualifications in Trinidad and Tobago and in Britain, the third and fourth places in London 2012, and more recently, the silver and bronze medals won in Beijing 2015.

Also praised in these pages was the time of 3:00.16 that the foursome registered in the semifinals, since its value of 1,190 points made it the second best performance in Río. The men's 4x100 team won the same number of points with a time of 38.47 in the semifinals, placing 13th; while Leonel Suárez won 8,460 in the decathlon, placing sixth.

In previous reports, individual times for members of the relay team were published: William Collazo 45.8; Adrián Chacón 44.7; Osmaidel Pellicier 45.33; and Yoandys Lescay 43.60. These individual times are of interest.

The first runner in a relay has the responsibility of coming off the block precisely at the sound of the starting shot. The other three must receive the baton in motion. The current Cuban team does this with a good measure of exactitude, as evidenced by the partial times, which are calculated for those who receive the baton in motion.

An area of 20 meters is designated for the handoff. In the 4x400, the exchange must take place entirely within this area, or the team is disqualified, as happened to the Cuban men in the May, when they lost the Ibero-American title.

These details help readers comprehend the outstanding individual time of 43.60 of Yoandys Lescay in the 4x400 final.

This was not simply a formidable performance. It was the best among all runners in the 2016 Olympics' early rounds and final relay races, in which the majority of individual finalists participated, including U.S. bronze medalist Lashawn Merritt, but not South African Wayde van Niekerk, or Grenada's Kirani James, who did not have teams which qualified.

Lescay (center) turned in an outstanding time in the last stretch of the 4X400 relay in Río de Janeiro. Photo: Ricardo López Hevia

Yoandys qualified for the individual 400 meters semifinals with a time of 45.00. In the relay, his take-off in motion, along with a blazing performance, to support the team effort was recorded at 43.60 seconds, the best in Río.

These partial times in relays do not constitute official records, nor is the time truly historic, despite being impressive. It has been beat on a few occasions in the four previous Olympic finals.

No one did so in London 2012. In Beijing 2008, Jeremy Wariner posted a time of 43.18 with the U.S. gold medal team, and Denis Alekseiev (43.56), helped win Russia a bronze. No partial times stood out in Athens 2004 or Sydney 2000. Throughout this period, only five runners among the hundreds of participants in relay finals came close to these times.

In Cuba, we can compare Yoandys Lescay with Roberto Hernández, from Matanzas, (44.14), and his predecessor from Santiago, Alberto Juan­torena (44.26), in the individual 400 meters.

Hernández clocked 44.14, for most of the race running behind Britain's John Regis, who he passed 50 meters from the finish line to win the Olympic silver medal.

In the Rome 1987 World Championships, Cuba's second best relay time was posted (2:59.16) - also the country's second best finish (bronze), Hernández ran the last leg in 43.88; while in Montreal 1976, Juantorena completed his stretch in 44.7 seconds, to win the team a seventh place finish.

Of course, the great star was tired when he participated in this last event of the Games after winning his historic double gold in the 800 and 400 meters. Cuban fans remember the 1982 relay in Havana's Pedro Marrero Stadium where Cuba took the lead in the Central American and Caribbean Games.

Although, Juantorena's individual time was not recorded, the moment's emotion will never be forgotten.

Yoandys Lescay's 43.60 second time was recorded, and is worthy of congratulations.