OFFICIAL VOICE OF THE COMMUNIST PARTY OF CUBA CENTRAL COMMITTEE
At only 17 years of age, Jordan Díaz won the triple jump championship at the Youth Olympics, this year in Buenos Aires. Photo: Calixto N. Llanes

The sun begins to warm Havana; there is still dew on the grass and the shrubs close by. It’s a little after 9:00am, and from the stands at Pedro Marrero Stadium, a young man can be seen warming up on the track around the soccer field.

From above, the many holes in the old rubber surface can be seen. The lack of sand in the jump pit can be noted, too, along with the paint that would brighten up the training area. Those who know athletics might notice the absence of certain equipment, but at least it appears that what compensates, and is not in short supply, is talent.

Talent, yes, exists in abundance. Right there, amidst the meager surroundings, under the sun and dressed in black, on the track close to the pit, standing is a current world champion, among those under 20 years of age. His name is Jordan.

“My father was very athletic. He played a lot of basketball, but I’m on this track more because of my own convictions, rather than family tradition. That’s the truth.

“I picked athletics because, in elementary school, they gave us several tests of physical efficiency and I always had good results in the jumps. So I began to practice more often with one of my teachers who approached me and encouraged me to train in athletics, in the afternoon after school.

“To be honest, I’ll tell you that at the beginning it was a game for me. I went to have fun and fill some time, because I didn’t have much to do. As time went by, my results got better. I went to several local and provincial competitions, until in Seventh Grade, during my first National School Games, I got the feeling that I was made for the world of sports.”

You have broken triple jump records at several levels. You’re the world champion in the juvenile category, and in a way, you are an emerging figure in athletics worldwide. Do you believe this could affect who you are, that you might become cocky, like some athletes?

I’m going to tell you something that happened to me at the Youth Olympic Games in Argentina, this year. When I won the gold, there were a lot of people there wanting a photo with me, and among them a little boy approached me asking to take a picture. It occurred to me to put the medal around his neck and give him the competition stuffed animal – something I felt good about. The public saw all this and applauded, and the truth it wasn’t staged, it was a gesture from the heart.

I consider myself a humble person. You can ask at school and you’ll confirm there that I am one who likes to feel like the others, because in the long run, this positive attitude generates more admiration. It’s the same in my neighborhood. I live on a quiet street in Vedado; I interact with everyone, and they follow my accomplishments, my career.

What is your opinion of the triple jump in Cuba today?

It’s an event that has always been good, with many figures emerging. At times, it declines some or athletes leave, but new ones appear, that’s what’s good, that we have lots of talent.

What challenges do you face in the near future?

Next year, I’ll have the Pan Americans in Lima, Peru. There’s also a competition in Costa Rica, but I’ll be in Europe around these dates, participating in several meets and preparing for the big events. The other important date will be the Athletics World Championships in Doha, Qatar, where I think I have a chance for a medal.

Could you become the Usain Bolt of Cuban athletics?

Yes, of course the possibility exists. In several competitions, my results have been very good, especially taking into account my young age. Every year that goes by, I can get better. I’m only 17 and I think the goal is to move forward. I’m not looking for records, what’s important to me is to get better, break my own records. It may be that in a competition I don’t win gold, but I improve my record and the joy I feel is as if I had won.

As a jumper, is there a figure who inspires you or with whom you identify more than others?

Yes, the triple jumper I always follow is Christian Taylor, from the United States, current Olympic champion. I like his style and I think that by observing his movement, I have improved my own technique.

Do have a special routine before you jump, some kind of prayer of something that makes you feel better?

I try to make my head go blank and I look toward the arena, forget everything, concentrate, and then ask for applause to motivate myself, up my adrenaline and jump.

Do you dedicate your victories to someone in particular?

Above all, my parents. They come first, and always have. Since I began my athletic career, they have let many things go and sacrificed so I could do well. I dedicate them to my coaches, too, who are my parents as well, my family. And also to the people who follow and support me.

Your greatest joy?

Having my parents here supporting me in everything. There are parents who don’t help their children in sports. They say, “Go on, practice,” and leave it at that, they’re on their own. I’m very grateful that my parents have always been there to help me.

This inspires me to move forward and take on projects. My parents raised me and now I feel a commitment, that I am the one who must repay them for all this.

Is there anything you can’t abide in others?

Get this, that people talk about me. Gossip is something I can’t stand. Of course, I have to learn to live with it, but the reality is that it’s something that really bothers me.

Jordan, if I mention Lima 2019 or Tokyo 2020, what comes to mind?

Being the youngest triple jump gold medal winner ever and giving Cuba a medal.

Jordan smiles as if he can already taste the moment, but he reacts and comes back to the present. He says goodbye and goes back to his training routine, his movements reflecting the catchy rhythm from a popular song.

He takes off at full speed several meters from the pit and when he steps on the board, soars and raises his arms and thighs, shouting, “One, two, three… What a cool jump!”

CAREER TIMELINE

- July of 2017

In the Under-18 World Athletics Championships, held in the capital of Kenya, Nairobi, Díaz is crowned triple jump champion with a mark of 17.30 meters, setting a new world record for his category

- June 8, 2018

Achieved his personal best with a mark of 17.41 meters in Havana.

- July 14, 2018

With a jump of 17.15 meters, Díaz took the top spot on the podium at the Under-20 World Athletics Championships in Tampere, Finland. The result was valid not only for the gold medal, but for a new U-20 world record as well.

- August 2, 2018

During the Central American and Caribbean Games held in Barranquilla, Colombia, Díaz wins the silver medal with a jump of 17.29 meters.

- August 10, 2018

Selected as best youth athlete, in Toronto, by the North, Central America and the Caribbean Athletics Association (Nacac).

- October 16, 2018

Díaz is crowned champion during the III Youth Olympic Games held in the city of Buenos Aires, with a jump of 17.14 meters.

COMING UP:

Pan-American Games in Lima, Peru, July of 2019; World Championships in Doha, Qatar, September of 2019; and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.