Cuba's national record holders Magalys Garcia (Heptathlon- 6352) and Katiuska Perez (Pole Vault- 4.20) head a small 15-member Cuban team which hopes to maintain its supremacy in the 19th Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Championships this weekend in St. George's, Granada.
While Cuba's best stars are currently training and competing in Europe, this group is part of the national selection for the Pan American Games in Santo Domingo August 1-17.
Katiuska Perez, shot putter Misleidis Gonzalez, discus thrower Yania Ferrales and 100 meter-hurdler Dainelky Perez will try to successfully defend their CAC titles from Guatemala 2001.
Magalys Garcia, the only Olympian in the squad - she was eleventh in Sydney 2000 - expects a nearly 6000-point performance will be necessary to cature her third CAC crown, following her wins in Cali, Colombia (1993) and Guatemala (1995).
Other top youngsters – Sergio Hierrezuelo (400 metres hurdles-49.46), Glaudel Garzon (400-45.48), Ana W. Lopez (100) - all medallists in the inaugural IAAF World Youth Champs in Bydgoszcz, Poland (1999), are also ready to claim a position on the podium.
Yosvany Suarez, with a season’s best of 73.69, starts as the clear favourite to dominate the Hammer throw, while World Indoor Champs semi-finalist Virgen Benavides (100), Ana H. Peña (400-52.20) and 2002 Iberoamerican champion Roxana Diaz (200) will show their sprinting potential in the Grenadine capital.
Lopez, Williams, Dainelky Perez and Benavides will also contest in the 4x100 metres relay.
Yudelkis Martinez will double in 5000 and 10,000 metres and decathlete Yonelvis Aguila hopes to improve his third place finish from two years ago.
Lisvany Perez, the 2001 Pan-American Junior champion, is Cuba's new promise in the High Jump, following on from current World record holder Javier Sotomayor’s retirement. The 1.98-metres high 21-year old athlete has set his sights on improving his personal best of 2.24m, leading a group of six Cubans aged 19-24 who have cleared 2.20-2.24.
The 10 women and five men contingent hopes to achieve eight gold, two silver and five bronze medals, aiming for the top position in the medal tally, in strong contention with Jamaica, Mexico, Bahamas, Venezuela and Colombia.
But more than the overall outcome in the medal standings, Cuban aim to tune up competitively prior to their most important competition of the year: the Pan American Games.
Cuba has always dominated the Central American and Caribbean Championships since its creation in Xalapa, Mexico (1967), except when it did not attend the 1991 Xalapa and the 1999 Bridgetown meets.
CAC History greats
The championships' most memorable day dates back to July 29, 1989 in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where Cuba’s Javier Sotomayor became the first man to clear eight feet (2.44) in the High Jump.
Other big names of the region have registered their performances on the CAC bookmarks, such as Olympic champions Donald Quarrie, Deon Hemmings (Jamaica), Hasely Crawford (Trinidad and Tobago), Maritza Marten, Alberto Juantorena, Anier Garcia and Ivan Pedroso (Cuba).
Attracting the region's finest
Grenada will be the host for the first time in the event's 36-year old history and has attracted some of the best athletes of the region, including Bahamas’ 2001 World 400m champion Avard Moncur, Cayman Islands' long jumper Kareem Streete-Thompson, Guyana’s Commonwealth Games 400m gold medallist Aliann Pompey, local one lap runner Alleyne Francique and Barbados’s only Olympic medallist Obadele Thompson, among others.
Javier Clavelo Robinson for the IAAF
CAC Championships records:
Event Mark Athlete Country Venue/year
100m 10.04A Kim Collins SKN Guatemala 2001
200m 20.38 Iván García CUB San Juan 1997
400m 44.84 Roberto Hernández CUB San Juan 1989
800m 1:46.51A Norberto Téllez CUB Guatemala 2001
1500m 3:41.27 Linton McKenzie JAM San Juan 1989
5000m 13:53.30 Francisco Pacheco MEX Nassau 1985
10000m 29:10.8A Herder Vásquez COL Cali 1993
H. Mar. 1:02:11 Marcelino Cristano MEX Cali 1993
3000 St. 8:36.8 Juan Ramón Conde CUB Nassau 1985
110H 13.44 Steve Brown TRI Bridgetown 1999
400 H 49.12A Domingo Cordero PUR Xalapa 1991
HJ 2.44 Javier Sotomayor CUB San Juan 1989
PV 5.61 Dominic Johnson LCA Bridgetown 1999
LJ 8.13 Jaime Jefferson CUB Nassau 1985
TJ 17.24A Brian Wellman BER Guatemala 2001
SP 19.36 Luis M. Delís CUB Santo Domingo 1981
DT 66.50 Luis M. Delís CUB Nassau 1985
HT 74.98A Alberto Sánchez CUB Cali 1993
JT 81.66 Emeterio González CUB San Juan 1997
Dec. 7755A Maurice Smith JAM Guatemala 2001
20km W 1:20:49 Noe Hernández MEX Bridgetown 1999
4x100m 39.07A Cuba CUB Guatemala 1995
4x400m 3:00.83 Jamaica JAM Guatemala 2001
Event Mark Athlete Country Venue/year
100m 11.18 Merlene Ottey JAM Nassau 1985
200m 22.39 Merlene Ottey JAM Nassau 1985
400m 50.63 Ana Fidelia Quirot CUB San Juan 1989
800m 1:59.01 Ana Fidelia Quirot CUB San Juan 1997
1500m 4:18.00 Ana Fidelia Quirot CUB San Juan 1997
5000m 16:27.59A América Mateos MEX Guatemala 2001
10000m 34:20.6A Stella Castro COL Cali 1993
H. Mar. 1:12:07A Stella Castro COL Cali 1993
100H 13.01 Odalys Adams CUB San Juan 1989
400 H 55.64 Andrea Blackett BAR Nassau 1985
HJ 1.88 Silvia Costa CUB San Juan 1989
PV 3.85 Katiuska Perez CUB Guatemala 2001
LJ 6.77A Elva Goulbourne JAM Guatemala 2001
TJ 14.14A Olga Cepero CUB Guatemala 1995
SP 18.28 María Elena Sarría CUB Santo Domingo 1981
DT 64.46 María Betancourt CUB Santo Domingo 1981
HT 58.68A Yunaika Crawford CUB Guatemala 2001
JT 61.61 Laverne Eve BAH Bridgetown 1999
Hep. 6189A Magalys Garcia CUBA Guatemala 1995
10km W 45:47 Rosario Sánchez MEX Guatemala 2001
4x100m 43.83A Jamaica JAM Guatemala 2001
4x400m 3:27.23 Cuba CUB Caracas 1987