World and Olympic medallists Yoandri Betanzos, Yipsi Moreno and Yumileidi Cumbá led a Cuban sweep in seven of the eight finals contested on the third day of athletics at the 20th Central American and Caribbean Games, where four more records fell and Félix Sánchez went medalless in the 400m Hurdles final.
Sanchez loses pace and medal
Despite only making his competitive comeback at these championships since injury hit him last on 13 May in Santo Domingo - a race which he did not finish - the Dominican Republic’s two-time World and 2004 Olympic champion Félix Sánchez still started as a favourite for the 400m Hurdles gold, together with Panama’s World and Olympic finalist Bayano Kamani.
Sánchez kept a good rhythm until the fifth hurdle, but lost pace after the sixth and lost contact with the leaders.
He entered the final straight in sixth place. Although he launched his attack, he could not catch up with the top three men and finished fourth in 50.45, behind Kamani (49.44) and Jamaicans Ian Weakly (49.74) and Bryan Steele (50.12).
Sánchez had clocked 50.43 for second behind Kamani in his semi-final on Wednesday.
Twenty-six-year old Kamani, who hit the final hurdle, posted his second best time of the season and gave Panama its first gold medal in Cartagena and the first CAC athletics title since 1959.
“God did not want me to win today. I am coming back from an injury and I am still far from my best form. I will take this year to recover and prepare for 2007, when I will aim for a third World title,” explained Sanchez.
“I felt tired, but I have four weeks to improve. It was a bad day. I will now go back home to Los Angeles to train. I want to be fit to give it all for my country. I have it in my heart. I hope to run two more races this year and end the season around 48 seconds,” the Dominican star added after congratulating Kamani.
Sánchez is expected to join the Dominican 4x400m relay squad, who will defend their title from El Salvador 2002.
“The key of the win was a fast start and I did not slow down,” commented Kamani.
Betanzos, Cumbá and Moreno lead Cuban sweep
Yoandri Betanzos, Yipsi Moreno and Yumileidi Cuba’s wins were equalled by Daimí Pernía (400m Hurdles), Roxana Diaz (200m), Yuleidis Limonta (Heptathlon) and Junior Lastre (Discus) to provide a perfect day for Cuba in all seven finals contested. No Cuban ran in the men’s 400m Hurdles final.
After an opening foul, Betanzos landed at 17.46 in the second round to smash his countryman Yoelbi Quesada’s record of 17.18, set in 1998.
The two-time World Championships silver medallist had two fouls and passed the final two rounds.
“I am obviously happy to win my first CAC Games title. I am in great form and I want to come back to Europe to jump with the world’s best, including Brazil’s Jadel Gregorio, my main rival for the World Cup spot in the Americas team,” said a calm Betanzos.
His countryman Alexis Copello (16.85) and Jamaica’s Wilbert Walter (16.35) were second and third, respectively.
Moreno won the Hammer Throw final, but she looked visibly upset for committing four fouls.
Her second round effort of 70.22 was good enough to guarantee the gold in a new Games record.
“The circle was not good at all, but we fulfilled our goal of grabbing gold and silver here,” commented IAAF World Rankings leader Moreno.
Her training partner and 2004 Olympic bronze medallist Yunaika Crawford was second in 67.88, while Eli Johana Moreno set a Colombian record of 65.51 to leave Puerto Rico’s defending champion Amarilys Almestica (62.69) out of the podium.
Olympic champion Yumileidi Cumbá regained a title she first won eight years ago in Maracaibo, Venezuela.
Cumbá took the lead with a first round heave of 18.92 and ended her series with 19.31, very close to the Games record of 19.36, set by her Cuban friend Maria Elena Sarría in Havana 1982.
“I missed the record by little. I am in good form and I was ready to throw further, but I joined Sarría with two titles in the CAC Games. I have been consistent over 19 metres this year and I hope to finally reach the 20-metre mark before the season ends,” stated a happy Cumbá, who was also second as a junior at the 1993 Games in Ponce, Puerto Rico.
Olympic finalist Misleidis González of Cuba (18.80) and Trinidad and Tobago Cleopatra Borel (18.33) were second and third, respectively.
Pernia back to best shape
Daimí Pernía, the 1999 World champion, is progressively returning to her best form and clinched her first CAC Games gold, her first international title since 2004.
The 29-year-old Cuban clocked 55.32, her best time since August 2004, and beat Trinidad and Tobago’s NACAC Under-23 champion Josanne Lucas (55.60) and Jamaica Melaine Walker (55.97).
Puerto Rico’s defending champion Yvonne Harrison did not finish.
“It gives me so much confidence to win here. My career is not over yet and I am sure I can return to world class level soon,” stated Pernía.
Roxana Díaz posted her best time in three years to win the 200m gold in a new Games record of 22.76, faster than the 28-year-old previous mark of 23.01, set by Cuban Silvia Chivás in 1978.
Díaz came close to the Cuban record of 22.69 she set to win the Pan American Games crown in 2003. It was the second time she dipped under 23 second in her career.
Saint Kitts and Nevis’ Virgil Hodge (23.09) improved from her 100m bronze, while Barbados’ Latoya Bailey (23.32) edged out US Virgin Islands’ Laverne Jones (23.33) for bronze.
Thanks to a 1.84 leap in the High Jump and 6.38 in the Long Jump - even better than the individual winner - Yuleidi Limonta improved her personal best to take the Heptathlon gold in a new Games record of 5952.
The Dominican Republic’s Juana Rosa Castillo (5664) and Cuba’s Gretchen Quintana (5584) completed the list of medallists. Another Dominican, 2002 Games gold medallist Francia Manzanillo was sixth in 5144.
The seventh gold for Cuba came in the men’s Discus with Junior Lastre (57.00) prevailing over Jamaica’s Jason Morgan (56.56) and Venezuela’s defending champion Héctor Hurtado (52.60).
Apart from the eight finals contested, the men’s 200m and 800m finalists were determined.
Venezuela’s Eduard Villanueva led the 800m qualifiers with 1:48.34, followed by Haiti’s Moise Joseph (1:48.53), Trinidad and Tobago’s junior Jamaal James (1:48.62) and Sheridan Kirk (1:49.57), Cuba’s 1500m bronze medallist Maury Castillo (1:49.60), junior Andy González (1:51.35), Mexico’s Martell Carlos Munguía (1:49.76) and Venezuela’s Simoncito Silvera (1:51.65).
The 200m finalists are Antigua and Barbuda’s Brendan Christian (20.70), Colombia’s Hawar Murillo (20.75), Jamaica’s Xavier Brown (20.81), Barbados’ Andrew Hinds (20.82), Bahamas’ 2004 World Indoor champion Dominic Demeritte (20.82), the Dominican Republic’s Carlos Santa (20.92) and Juan Sainfleur (21.00) and Dominica’s Chris Lloyd (20.97).
Six finals are scheduled for Friday: the men’s 200m, 3000m Steeplechase, Pole Vault, Long Jump and Hammer Throw, as well as the women’s Discus Throw and the 4x100 and 4x400m semi-finals.
Cuba leads the tally with 25 medals (14 gold, seven silver and four bronze), followed by Colombia (3-3-5), Mexico (3-1-1), the British Virgin Islands, the Netherland Antilles, Panama and El Salvador with a title each.
With many of its stars absent, Jamaica has only obtained two silver and four bronze medals. Nineteen countries have achieved at least one medal.
Javier Clavelo Robinson for the IAAF
Here are all the medallists on the third day of athletics:
1. Roxana Díaz CUB 22.76 CR
2. Virgil Hodge SKN 23.09
3. Latoya Bailey BAR 23.32
1. Daimí Pernía CUB 55.32
2. Josanne Lucas TRI 55.60
3. Melaine Walker JAM 55.97
1. Yumileidi Cumbá CUB 19.31
2. Misleidis González CUB 18.80
3. Cleopatra Borel TRI 18.33
1. Yipsi Moreno CUB 70.22 CR
2. Yunaika Crawford CUB 67.88
3. Eli Johana Moreno COL 65.51 NR
1. Yuleidi Limonta CUB 5952 CR
2. Juana Rosa Castillo DOM 5664
3. Gretchen Quintana CUB 5584
1. Bayano Kamani PAN 49.44
2. Ian Weakly JAM 49.74
3. Bryan Steele JAM 50.12
1. Yoandri Betanzos CUB 17.46 (0.8) CR
2. Alexis Copello CUB 16.85
3. Wilbert Walker JAM 16.35
1. Junior Lastre CUB 57.00
2. Jason Morgan JAM 56.56
3. Héctor Hurtado VEN 52.60
NR- National Record
CR- Championships Record