Created 29 July 2012
Caterine IBARGÜEN Mena, Colombia (Long Jump/Triple Jump)
Born 12 February 1984 in Apartadó, Antioquia
Coach: Ubaldo Duany (CUB)
Twenty years after Ximena Restrepo’s historic bronze medal at the 1992 Barcelona Games, Colombia is dreaming again of another Olympic medal in athletics, thanks to Caterine Ibargüen.
Born in Antioquia’s sub-region of Urabá, an area that’s well known for its banana plantations, Ibargüen was raised by her grandmother Ayola Rivas after her parents broke up. Her mother Francisca worked as a cook in gold mines in Antioquia and her father William settled in neighbouring Venezuela.
She began playing volleyball before taking up athletics at the age of 12 in her hometown of Apartadó. She was then invited to move to Medellín, the capital of Antioquia, to continue training there, where more resources were available.
“My first coach was Wilder Zapata. He discovered me at my school. I began at High Jump in 1996, when I was moved to Medellín’s “Villa Deportiva” – a high performance centre.” There she began training under Cuban coach Jorge Luis Alfaro, who was also training South American record holder Gilmar Mayo, and focused on the High Jump.
In 1999, aged only 15, Ibargüen won her first medal at the senior South American Championships, taking bronze with 1.76. In 2000, she continued to train with another Cuban coach, Regla Sandrino. “I guess that’s when I consolidated myself at the event,” she recalled.
A year later, she savoured her first international win at the Bolivarian Games in Ambato, Ecuador, in September and then contested the High Jump, Long Jump and Triple Jump at both the South American Junior Championships – where she medalled in each event – and at the Pan American Junior Championships – where she was second in the High Jump and a finalist in the other events.
In 2002, she improved in the Triple Jump, setting a national junior record of 13.38. She combined the two events and won medals in both at the Central American and Caribbean Junior Championships in Barbados and the CAC Games in San Salvador.
In between, she had her first global experience when she contested the Triple Jump at the World Junior Championships, in Kingston, but failed to qualify to the final.
Her focus remained on the High Jump, where in 2003 she set the national record and equalled the South American junior record with 1.86m as well as national junior record in the Long Jump with 6.18A.
She improved her record to 1.91m in 2004 to make the Colombian team for the Olympic Games in Athens at the age of 20 but did not make it past the qualifications. At the National Games at the end of the year, she also set her first national records in the Long Jump (6.42A) and Triple Jump (13.64A).
Ibargüen consolidated herself as the region’s top High Jumper as she collected two South American Junior titles (2001 and 2003) and five South American titles in a row (U23 in 2004 and 2006, Senior in 2005-2007). In 2005, she reached her best of 1.93 and contested her first World Championships in Helsinki, but again failed to make it to the final.
The following year, she contested her first and so far only competition indoors at the World Indoor Championships in Moscow. But her results stalled and after failing to qualify to the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, she felt she needed a change in her career.
“When I failed to qualify for the 2008 Games, I felt depressed, like I wanted to quit the sport. That’s when I move to Puerto Rico – at the end of 2008 – to study at the “Universidad Metropolitana”. The idea was to set the focus in the Triple Jump and Heptathlon, under the guidance of Ubaldo Duany.”
Cuba’s Duany, an 8.32 Long Jumper (1986) and 1989 World Indoor finalist, saw that Ibargüen’s potential in the High Jump was limited, due to how her body had changed over the years. When she obtained her scholarship to study nursing in Puerto Rico, Duany sat down to trace a plan for her, more adapted to her potential.
“I knew it would be hard to keep improving in the High Jump, as she had developed more muscular mass in her lower extremities. I figured that she would have to lose weight in order to jump higher. So, with that in mind, I understood she would do much better at Long and Triple, even with the chance of competing at high level,” recalled Duany.
“When I decided to move to Puerto Rico, I was determined to make the most of it. I wanted to study and work hard with Coach Duany. He knew me well, and although I had done Triple Jump before, we needed to correct the major technical mistakes I was carrying,” explained Ibargüen. “We had to start from scratch, and I used to wonder, ‘When am I going to dominate this event?’ It was pretty hard for me, but I always remained optimistic, thanks to the support of a great coach, who is very positive,” she added.
2010 marked her first tests of fire and she soon started to see progress as a Triple Jump specialist. She picked up silver behind World champion Yargelis Savigne at the Iberoamerican Championships with a national record of 14.29. A month and a half later, she added a silver at the Central American Games, in Puerto Rico. “I guess those results left us (my coach and myself), much more positive for the future,” commented the young Colombian.
The stage was set for a breakthrough in 2011. In 13 finals she contested, Ibargüen improved or equalled the Colombian Triple Jump record on seven occasions, and the South American mark on four. In the process, she collected her second South American title in the event. Over a period of five months, she improved her best from 14.30 to 14.99 right before the World Championships, in Daegu.
In the Korean city she stayed consistent over 14.80, with a bronze-winning 14.84, to join race walker Luis Fernando López – who had also won bronze days earlier – as the first Colombians to reach the podium at the World Championships.
“I had high expectations and things went as expected. I thank God and I would like to dedicate this medal to Colombia. I have had a long career, this is my first major performance. It is never too late and I hope similar results on the global stage will follow,” said a smiling Ibargüen as she celebrated her feat.
She capped a magic season by claiming gold at the Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico – Colombia’s first ever medal in a women’s field event in the Games and the first ever overall gold in field events. Thanks to all those achievements, Ibargüen was named Colombia’s sportsperson of 2011 by the national newspaper “El Espectador”.
“It was truly a great year. I felt more eager after each improvement, which was also a confirmation of the great work we were doing. And I was also thinking that I always had more margin to continue to better my marks. However, the goal for us was to improve the technique, and to reach a certain level of consistency; we weren’t just focusing on the performances. The season was great from the first until the last competition. I couldn’t have done it without the great coach I have, or without the great conditions in which we train,” she reflected.
Judging from her 2012 season so far, Ibargüen is ready for something big at the London Olympics. At home, she improved her Long Jump national record to 6.73 and set a world leading 14.95 in her first Triple Jump competition of the year.
She ranks second on the world lists ahead of the Olympics behind Ukraine’s world and European champion Olha Saladuha (14.99) and ended her pre-Olympic campaign with two Diamond League wins in London and Monaco (where she registered the third best mark of 2012).
Based on her consistency, Ibargüen is convinced she is ready to jump 15 meters to win an Olympic medal. “That’s what will be needed to win a medal. I am confident and relaxed,” she commented. “I feel no pressure. I am taking it (the Olympics) with a cool mind and will do my best as usual (in London)”, she added.
Ibargüen defines herself as “a fighter, persistent and friendly”. She gives a lot of credit to coaches Sandrino and Duany for her success. “Regla (Sandrino) is like a mother to me. If I have come this far is because she taught me to fight until the end. I now have another father, Ubaldo Duany. He is always there not only as a coach but also as a friend, father, psychologist. They are special to me and have positively contributed to my development as a person and as an athlete.”
“Sport was a way out for me. It helps you grow as a person and it gives you the opportunity to meet many people and discover many countries. Thanks to sports, I made my first trip to Bogotá. Today, my family, my coach and representing my country are my main motivation,” she continued.
Off the track, Ibargüen is hoping to finish her career at nursing school at Universidad Metropolitana in 2012. She lives in Puerto Rico with her boyfriend, Colombian hurdler Alexander Ramos who also trains with Duany at the same university. “Alexander is a great part of my life, and gives me a great deal of support.”
200m- 24.96 (2009)
800m- 2:41.53 (2009)
100m hurdles- 14.09 (2011)
High Jump- 1.93 NR (2005)
Long jump- 6.73A NR (2012)
Triple jump- 14.99 AR (2011)
Shot Put- 13.71A (2008)
Javelin- 44.81 (2009)
Heptathlon- 5742 (2009)
High Jump: 1999-1.76A; 2000- -; 2001-1.79A, 2002-1.81A, 2003-1.86A AJR, 2004-1.91 NR, 2005-1.93 NR, 2006-1.90A, 2007-1.87, 2008-1.88A, 2009-1.88A, 2010-1.80, 2011-1.85
Long Jump: 2001-5.87; 2002-6.08A, 2003-6.18A NJR, 2004-6.42A NR, 2005-6.54A NR, 2006-6.49A/6.52Aw, 2007-6.22/6.23w, 2008-6.54A ENR, 2009-6.41A, 2010-6.29A/6.34w, 2011-6.63A NR, 2012-6.73A NR/6.87W
Triple Jump: 2001-12.90; 2002-13.38A NJR, 2003-13.23A, 2004-13.64A NR, 2005-13.66A NR, 2006-13.91A NR/13.98Aw, 2007-12.66A, 2008-13.79A, 2009-13.96 A NR, 2010-14.29 NR, 2011-14.99A AR, 2012-14.95A
1999 3rd South American Championships, Bogotá (High Jump) 1.76A
2001 1st Bolivarian Games, Ambato (High Jump) 1.79A
2001 1st South American Junior Championships, Santa Fe (High Jump) 1.77
2001 2nd South American Junior Championships, Santa Fe (Long Jump) 5.87
2001 3rd South American Junior Championships, Santa Fe (Triple Jump) 12.65
2001 2nd Pan American Junior Championships, Santa Fe (High Jump) 1.77
2001 6th Pan American Junior Championships, Santa Fe (Long Jump) 5.70
2001 4th Pan American Junior Championships, Santa Fe (Triple Jump) 12.90
2002 2nd Central American and Caribbean Junior Ch., Bridgetown (High Jump) 1.79
2002 3rd Central American and Caribbean Junior Ch., Bridgetown (Triple Jump) 13.01
2002 q World Junior Championships, Kingston (Triple Jump) 12.69
2002 3rd Central American and Caribbean Games, San Salvador (High Jump) 1.79
2002 3rd Central American and Caribbean Games, San Salvador (Triple Jump) 13.17
2003 1st South American Junior Championships, Guayaquil (High Jump) 1.80
2003 1st South American Junior Championships, Guayaquil (Triple Jump) 13.05
2003 4th South American Championships, Barquisimeto (High Jump) 1.79
2003 2nd South American Championships, Barquisimeto (Long Jump) 6.04
2003 3rd South American Championships, Barquisimeto (Triple Jump) 13.07
2003 4th Pan American Junior Championships, Bridgetown (High Jump) 1.81
2003 4th Pan American Junior Championships, Bridgetown (Triple Jump) 12.64
2004 1st South American U23 Championships, Barquisimeto (High Jump) 1.91
2004 2nd South American U23 Championships, Barquisimeto (Long Jump) 6.05
2004 3rd Iberoamerican Championships, Huelva (High Jump) 1.88
2004 q Olympic Games, Athens (High Jump) 1.85
2005 1st South American Championships, Cali (High Jump) 1.93
2005 3rd South American Championships, Cali (Long Jump) 6.30
2005 3rd South American Championships, Cali (Triple Jump) 13.59
2005 q World Championships, Helsinki (High Jump) 1.84
2005 1st Bolivarian Games, Armenia (High Jump) 1.91A
2005 1st Bolivarian Games, Armenia (Long Jump) 6.54A
2005 1st Bolivarian Games, Armenia (Triple Jump) 13.64A
2006 q World Indoor Championships, Moscow (High Jump) 1.81
2006 2nd Central American and Caribbean Games, Cartagena (High Jump) 1.88
2006 1st South American Championships, Tunja (High Jump) 1.90A
2006 2nd South American Championships, Tunja (Long Jump) 6.51A
2006 2nd South American Championships, Tunja (Triple Jump) 13.91A
2006 2nd South American U23 Championships, Buenos Aires (High Jump) 1.85
2006 1st South American U23 Championships, Buenos Aires (Long Jump) 6.32
2006 2nd South American U23 Championships, Buenos Aires (Triple Jump) 13.26
2007 1st South American Championships, Medellín (High Jump) 1.84
2007 3rd South American Championships, Medellín (Long Jump) 6.18
2007 4th Pan American Games, Rio de Janeiro (High Jump) 1.87
2008 2nd Iberoamerican Championships, Iquique (High Jump) 1.85
2008 2nd Central American and Caribbean Championships, Cali (High Jump) 1.88A
2008 6th Central American and Caribbean Championships, Cali (Triple Jump) 13.04A
2009 1st South American Championships, Lima (High Jump) 1.88A
2009 1st South American Championships, Lima (Triple Jump) 13.93A
2009 1st Bolivarian Games, Sucre (High Jump) 1.80A
2009 1st Bolivarian Games, Sucre (Long Jump) 6.32A
2009 2nd Bolivarian Games, Sucre (Triple Jump) 13.96A
2010 2nd Iberoamerican Championships, San Fernando (Triple Jump) 14.29
2010 4th Central American and Caribbean Games Mayagüez (Long Jump) 6.29
2010 2nd Central American and Caribbean Games Mayagüez (Triple Jump) 14.10
2011 3rd South American Championships, Buenos Aires (Long Jump) 6.45
2011 1st South American Championships, Buenos Aires (Triple Jump) 14.59
2011 3rd World Championships , Daegu (Triple Jump) 14.84
2011 3rd Pan American Games , Guadalajara (Long Jump) 6.63A
2011 1st Pan American Games , Guadalajara (Triple Jump) 14.92A
Prepared by Javier Clavelo and Eduardo Biscayart for the IAAF ‘Focus on Athletes’ project. © IAAF 2012