Updated 28 February 2008
Dayron ROBLES, Cuba (110m hurdles)
Born 19 November 1986 Guantánamo, Cuba 1.92m 80kg
Coach: Santiago Antúnez
Dayron Robles comes from an athletics background. His uncle, Eulogio Robles, was a member of the Cuba national team in the 1970s and ran 51.76 for the 400m hurdles. Also involved in sports was his mother, Regla Mercy, a housewife, who played volleyball. His father Gualberto, who passed away in 1998, was a musician and he and a cousin, Henry Murray, who died in 2006, are the main motivation for him every time he steps on a track.
Robles took up athletics at the age of 10 and, as is usual in Cuba, he competed in various disciplines. Trainers had realised his potential for the hurdles, but he preferred the high jump, and did not start to focus on the hurdles until the age of 14, making great progress since.
After winning at the National Youth Games, Robles was promoted to the national junior team in 2002. He made his international debut when he was sixth at the 2003 World Youth Championships in Sherbrooke, Canada. He kept improving and gave Cuba its only medal at the 2004 World Junior Championships in Grosseto, Italy, where he finished second in the 110m hurdles.
Robles finished his junior career on a high note in 2005, breaking the 33-year old Central American and Caribbean junior record twice as he ran 13.47 and 13.46, the latter to win the Pan American junior title in Windsor, Canada. Earlier that month he had been runner-up to his countryman, Yoel Hernandez, at the CAC Senior Championships, in Nassau, and later reached the semi-finals at the IAAF World Championships, in Helsinki.
2006 saw his consecration on the international scene, and his start as a senior could not have been better. With no previous indoor experience, he claimed the silver medal at the World Indoor Championships, in Moscow. He went on to win his first national senior title at the 3rd National Olympics and improved his personal best to 13.32 in Havana before starting his European tour, where he burst into the elite in his event.
After three wins in Spain (13.28 in Alcalá de Henares), he posted a surprising 13.11 to finish second in Paris on his Golden League debut, ahead of France’s world champion Ladji Doucouré and China’s Olympic gold medallist Liu Xiang. He ran even faster with 13.04 to finish fourth in the historic Lausanne race on July 11, in which Liu Xiang broke the world record. “I did not have a good start in that race, but the day was magic,” Robles said. “Everyone ran so fast. I am young and I already reached the elite level. Now I have to stay there”.
Robles confirmed his new standing with a 13.08 win at the IAAF Grand Prix, in Madrid, before heading back to the other side of the Atlantic. There he clinched his first international senior title when winning at the Central American and Caribbean Games in Cartagena, Colombia, clocking 13.12 to break the Games record (13.27) of his countryman and 2000 Olympic champion, Anier Garcia.
With eight races this year clocking 13.20 or faster, Robles propelled himself from the 28th at the start of the season to the first place in the IAAF World Rankings for his event on 11 September 2006. Just a week before the World Cup, Robles equaled Garcia’s national record of 13.00 to finish second to Liu Xiang at the World Athletics Final, in Stuttgart, becoming the 13th fastest hurdler in history.
“I came to Stuttgart to do my best and I did,” Robles said. “If I had not hit the last hurdle, I could have dipped under 13 seconds. I will achieve that. It is just a matter of time.” Being the youngest member of the Americas team for the World Cup, he ended his season on a high note with third place in Athens.
In 2007, Robles confirmed his progress and posted the fastest time over 60m hurdles in three years (7.38), just 0.01 short of Garcia’s CAC indoor record. Outdoors, he achieved his first Golden League win, in Paris, and went on to claim the Pan American gold, in Rio de Janeiro, the second senior title in his short but already successful career.
“It felt great to make my contribution to my country as we finished on top in the athletics competition and second in the overall medal table, behind the US and closely followed by Brazil“. The 20-year old also extended the winning streak of Cuban male sprint hurdlers at the Pan American Games as his compatriots, Garcia and Yuniel Hernandez, won in Winnipeg (1999) and Santo Domingo (2003).
After a successful campaign, Robles could not live up to expectations as he finished fourth at the World Championships, in Osaka. But he made up for the disappointment with the best race of his life, once again in Stuttgart, blazing to a superb 12.92 win at the World Athletics Final and erasing his compatriot and 2000 Olympic champion Anier Garcia’s seven-year old CAC record of 13.00. He ended his season with a convincing win over world and Olympic champion and world record holder Liu Xiang in the latter’s home town of Shanghai.
Indoors in 2008, Robles has been dominant over the barriers. Having clocked eight of the 10 fastest times this winter, he first broke the CAC record in Stuttgart on February 2, before improving it to 7.33, the second fastest of all-time, six days later in Düsseldorf.
That time is just 0.03 seconds off Colin Jackson’s world record of 7.30, which the Briton set in 1994. After such a superb campaign, he looks forward to winning his first global title at the World Indoor Championships in Valencia.
Two weeks before the championships, he visited the southern Spanish city. “I wanted to know the track first-hand before the event,” Robles said. “Obviously, after my runner-up place at the Moscow World Indoors two years ago my only target is the gold medal. I won’t be satisfied other than that. The title is more important than the world record which I feel capable of breaking.”
Robles also commented about China’s reigning Olympic and World 110m hurdles champion Liu Xiang.
“I only know that he’s competing in Valencia which means more rivalry and that’s good for me, no problem,” the Cuban said. “But I train every day to become the best athlete in the world so I don’t fear anyone, including Xiang.”
He considers Santiago Antúnez, his coach, as a father and his teammates in the athletics squad are like brothers. “Anier Garcia is like a school for me,” Robles said. “He has been my reference since I got to the national team. I admire him both as an athlete as a person. We are good friends. Yoel and Yuniel Hernandez have also maintained Cuban hurdling on top. We are heirs of a successful tradition, coming from the times of Alejandro Casañas, Emilio Valle, Erick Batte and before.”
One of his best friends in the team is 2007 triple jump world champion Yargelis Savigne. They both come from the same roots in the easternmost province of Guantanamo.
Off the track, Robles loves to party, listen to music and dance. He has a special preference for reggae and rap. After taking a physical conditioning course, he started his sport and physical education studies at the Manuel Fajardo University of Sports and Physical Education.
110m hurdles: 12.92 (2006), 60m hurdles: 7.33 (2008)
2002 - 15.01; 2003 - 14.28; 2004 - 13.75; 2005 - 13.46; 2006 - 13.00; 2007 - 12.92.
2006 - 7.46; 2007 - 7.38; 2008 - 7.33
2003 6th World Youth Championships
2004 2nd World Junior Championships
2005 2nd Central American and Caribbean Championships
2005 1st Pan American Junior Championships
2006 2nd World Indoor Championships
2006 1st Central American and Caribbean Games
2006 2nd World Athletics Final
2006 3rd World Cup
2007 1st Pan American Games
2007 4th World Championships
2007 1st World Athletics Final
Prepared by Javier Clavelo for the IAAF ‘Focus on Athletes’ project. Copyright IAAF 2008.