Date: 11 August 2008
Irving SALADINO, Panama (Long Jump)
Born 23 January 1983, Ciudad de Colón. 1.76m / 70 kg
Lives and trains in São Paulo at the Regional Training Centre
Based in Nijmegen, Netherlands, when competing in Europe
Coach: Nélio Moura
Irving Saladino is one of the most promising talents to emerge from Panama since Lloyd LaBeach, who won bronzes at 100m and 200m at the London Games of 1948, the country’s only Olympic medals.
Saladino was born in Ciudad de Colón, an hour from the capital, Ciudad de Panamá. Throughout his youth, Irving was a very athletic child. His brother David introduced him to athletics when Irving was a teenager, but he often mixed his track training sessions with his other passion, baseball.
“Once I was very close to becoming a baseball player,” says Saladino. “I was spotted by some scouts of US major league teams. I was a good centerfielder, with great speed. Not such a great hitter. But track was already in my heart and I decided to stick with it.” Saladino remains a great fan of the New York Yankees, whose star relief pitcher is his compatriot Mariano Rivera.
Like many in Latin America, Saladino as a young man saw the United States as a land of opportunity, so, after finishing high school, he went to live with an aunt for a year in New York City. He loved the city, but decided not to stay.
Saladino’s first coach was a former Panamanian sprinter, Florencio Aguilar, who himself had some success at the continental level in South America. Aguilar saw more than raw speed in Saladino (who has a 10.4 PB at 100m), and converted him into a long-jumper.
His first international competitions came in 2002: a meet in Guatemala City where he jumped an altitude-aided 7.51m; the CAC Juniors in Bridgetown, Barbados, where his 7.39 won bronze; the World Juniors in Kingston, Jamaica, where he could manage only 7.30 and failed to qualify for the final. In 2003 his 7.46 was good enough for bronze in the South American Championships.
In 2004 a jump of 8.12 at a meet in Bogotá (2600m above sea level) qualified him for the Athens Olympics, but the youngster could only manage a modest 7.42 in the qualifying round.
By that time, Saladino had received an offer to join the São Paulo Regional Training Center through the Olympic Solidarity Programme. Along with Coach Aguilar he decided after Athens to accept the offer, and at the end of 2004 he made his first trip to Brazil to put himself in the hands of Nélio Moura, who had coached great jumpers such as Maurren Maggi and Jadel Gregório.
The results showed early in 2005, where by the beginning of April Saladino had already jumped a national record 8.18 and a wind-aided 8.51. His improvement continued with an 8.26 in Santiago de Chile in May, and later with 8.29 at the Sevilla GP, but a hamstring injury sustained in Europe forced him to stop all competition.
After returning to São Paulo for treatment, Saladino came back to action only at the qualifying round of the Helsinki World Championships, where he struggled to advance to the final with a 7.98m result. Still, in the decisive moment of the season, he was able to prove his talent and finished in 6th place with a wind-aided mark of 8.20.
His goals for the 2006 were high, but almost all of them have been attained. Jumping beyond 8.50m in legal conditions and setting himself among the world’s best where the most important objectives and both were achieved early in the season.
2006 began well with a leap of 8.29 in São Paulo on 18 February, equaling his national record. Then on 11 March Saladino won his first global medal in Moscow at the World Indoor Championships, while setting South American records in the qualification and the final (8.10 and 8.29m), only to be defeated by Ghanaian Ignisious Gaisah by 1cm.
After that silver medal, Saladino opened his outdoor season with another South American record. The Rio de Janeiro Grand Prix saw him soar over 8.56m on 14 May, a performance that placed him first in the 2006 world lists.
His 2006 campaign also saw him winning the Ibero-American Championships and the Central American and Caribbean Games over the great Cuban champion Iván Pedroso and competing with great success on the one day meetings.
After winning the first leg on the Golden League in Oslo with 8.53, Saladino suffered what was to be his only defeat of the outdoor season in Paris-Saint Denis on 8 July, also to Gaisah, this time by a margin of 2 cm (8.31 to 8.29m), but bounced back to win in Rome (8.45).
He then notched up successive wins in Zürich (8.36), Brussels (8.31, notwithstanding a minor injury) and Berlin (8.35).
This feat of 5 victories out of 6 Golden League meets has made him one of the 6 athletes who won a share of the Golden League Jackpot, were the Panamanian earned a sum of $83,333 dollars.
At the World Athletics Final in Stuttgart, the Panamanian confirmed his supremacy with in 8.41 over Saudi Arabian Mohammed Al Kuwalidi (8.34) who was also N.2 in the seasonal lists.
Other victories in the Athens Grand Prix (8.65w, with a legal jump of 8.23) and Linz (8.36) meant than, in the lead up to the World Cup in Athens Saladino had competed outdoors in 15 finals, losing only in Paris.
Statistically speaking, his average for those 15 finals was 8.39m, counting as his result at the Athens Grand Prix the legal jump of 8.23m, while he had won there with a wind aided (+3.3) leap of 8.65m. That 8.23m and the 4 times he jumped 8.29m (3 outdoor and 1 indoor) were his worse performances of the year. A very impressive feat by someone who up to 2005 had a career-best of 8.29m.
In the Greek capital, a leap of 8.26 was sufficient to clinch the gold medal at the World Cup, in his last competition of the season
Saladino’s progression continued in 2007, year in which he diminished the number of his competitions to only nine finals – all victories.
On 17 February he improved the South American indoor record to 8.31 in Birmingham, in his only indoors competition. Then the Panamanian begun his outdoor season in impressive for at the Rio de Janeiro South American GP with 8.53, performance he repeated in Hengelo, at the Fanny Blankers-Koen Memorial on 26 May.
On 24 July, Saladino took the Pan-American Games title in Rio de Janeiro with 8.28, obtaining the first-ever gold medal in Athletics for his country, first-ever of any colour by a male in Athletics, and only the second gold in the multi-sport event for Panama.
Saladino continued making history in Osaka. After a somewhat poor performance in the qualification round of the World Championships (sixth with 8.13), the Panamanian produced a very emotional victory, also capturing the first medal at the event for his country.
On 30 August, the South American athlete took the lead in round three with 8.46, but after two fouls, Italian Andrew Howe moved ahead with 8.47 – a national record – in his final jump. Saladino had the last chance of the night and did not waste it. His answer was definitive and dramatic: 8.57. Good enough for the gold and a new South American record.
The final part of the year was filled with recognition at his country, but also cut by an inflammation of the knee tendon of his right leg, injury that became evident at the Rieti Grand Prix, where Saladino won with 8.31. That injury meant that the Panamanian could not jump at the World Athletics Final.
The 2008 Olympic year begun with a promising 8.42 South American indoor record set in Athens on 13 February, 4 days after winning in Valencia with 8.20. But another physical problem, this time in his right ankle, made Saladino miss the World Indoor Championships.
The Panamanian return to action on 18 May in Rio de Janeiro, with a solid victory with 8.39.
Six days later (24 May) he improved his South American record in Hengelo, taking it to 8.73 (wind 1.2), mark that placed him seventh in the all-time World Lists. Yet, eight days later, on 1 June, Saladino’s winning streak came to an end in Berlin, when he placed seventh at the ISTAF Golden League meet with 7.92, competition won by Hussein Taher Al-Sabee of Saudi Arabia with 8.21.
Berlin marked the end of Saladino’s winning streak, stopped at 21 finals – 18 outdoors and 3 indoors. The last time the Panamanian could not obtain a victory had been in Paris/Saint-Denis on 8 July 2006, when Ghana’s Ignisious Gaisah beat him 8.31 to 8.29.
“I started jumping very well, with a couple of long fouls, but towards the end I felt something on my knee, an old injury. Yet, it’s not an excuse for the defeat”, expressed Saladino.
His coach Nélio Moura decided that rest and treatment were needed.
Saladino returned to competition on 11 July in Roma, at the Golden Gala, and 18 July, at the Gaz de France Golden League, in Paris/Saint Denis, scoring two victories with 8.30 and 8.31 respectively.
Heading into his first Olympic Games, in Beijing, this time, most of his European training was done in Madrid.
Saladino carried the Panamanian flag at the 8 August Opening Ceremony of the Games.
8.73 AR (2008); 8.42i AR (2008)
2002 - 7.51A / 7.39; 2003 - 7.46; 2004 - 8.12A/ 7.74; 2005 - 8.29 / 8.51w ; 2006 - 8.56 AR / 8.65w / 8.29i AR ; 2007 - 8.57 AR / 8.31i AR ; 2008 - 8.73 AR / 8.42i AR
2007 1st World Championships
2007 1st Pan American Games
2006 1st World Cup
2006 1st World Athletics Final
2006 1st Central American and Caribbean Games
2006 1st Ibero-American Championships
2006 2nd World Indoor Championships
2005 6th World Championships
2004 q Olympic Games (36th)
2003 3rd South American Championships
2002 q World Junior Championships (17th)
Prepared by Eduardo Biscayart for the IAAF Focus on Athletes project. © 2006-8 IAAF.