Created 26 July 2012
Luguelín Miguel SANTOS Aquino
Dominican Republic (400m)
Born 12 November 93 in Bayaguana
Height: 1.77m Weight: 60kg
Coach: José Ludwig Rubio
Luguelín Miguel Santos Aquino has rapidly risen as a world class 400m runner and has the Dominican Republic dreaming of Olympic joy again after Felix Sanchez’s gold in Athens 2004.
The oldest of three brothers, Luguelín was born to Juan Santos Santos, a freight lift operator, and Irma Aquino Méndez, a housewife, in Bayaguana, provice of Monte Plata, an hour’s drive northeast of Santo Domingo.
An older cousin Ceila Aquino, a long jumper and sprinter, introduced him to athletics in 2002. He combined athletics and cycling until he chose to focus on the former in 2003. His first coach was Rosa Tiburcio.
With no track in his hometown, his training was done at the baseball stadium. He initially ran longer distances, but eventually came down to the middle distances. He once tried the 400m in 2008 and ran 1:13. After a few months of training, he tried again and ran 53 seconds.
He was then seen by coach and former president of the Dominican Athletics Federation José Ludwig Rubio, who took him to his group in 2008.
And his career immediately started to improve. In 2009, he ran 47.58 in June and made the national team for the Pan American Junior Championships in Port of Spain.
“I remember Grenada’s Rondell (Bartholomew) ran past me in the north straight and I felt as I was not moving. I did not make it to the final but was still very proud to represent my country for the first time”, recalled Santos with a smile.
He finished fifth in his heat with 47.88 and ran the second leg of the 4x400m relay team who set a national junior record of 3:13.18 for sixth. He missed the World Youth Championships in Italy due to visa problems.
The following season meant more international participation. He first won the Youth Olympic Games trials in San Salvador with a personal best of 47.22. At only 16, he improved over a second to set a new national youth and junior record of 46.16 in Santo Domingo.
He then collected his first regional medal by taking individual silver and the relay bronze at the Central American Junior Championships on home soil and followed with a sixth place finish at the World Junior Championships in Moncton.
Such results earned him a spot on the Dominican team for the inaugural Youth Olympic Games in Singapore 2010, where he made his country proud by winning the 400m.
“Singapore was a memorable experience for me,” he recalled. Not only winning gold, but also making new friends, the cultural activities at the Village and also learning about the Olympics. I really felt what the Olympic spirit was all about.”
The year 2011 did not start as promising, as he suffered a left hamstring injury that did not allow him to train properly for five months. He qualified to the Central American and Caribbean Championships final, in Puerto Rico, but suffered a minor muscle injury in his left leg and did not finish the race. For that reason, he missed the World Championships in Daegu.
Fully recovered, he broke the 46-second barrier (45.97, 13 August in Bogotá) for the first time and confirmed his training for the Pan American Games was on the right track.
In Guadalajara, he benefited from a fast race and a rivalry with Costa Rica’s Nery Brenes and Bahamas’ Ramon Miller to set a national junior record of 45.41 in the semifinals.
That set the stage for the final a day later. He was determined to fight for gold and he did, leading the race in the first 300m, before he was overtaken by Brenes in the homestretch. “I was expecting a low 45 second, but when I saw the clock at 44.71, I put my hands on my head and said ‘wow’. I could not believe it,” commented Santos on his breakthrough performance in the Mexican city.
The time eclipsed Felix Sanchez’s 10-year old national record of 44.90 and ranked him sixth on the all-time world junior lists. Two days later, he anchored the 4x400m relay squad to silver and national record of 3:00.44 minutes, a time that put his country in contention for an Olympic spot.
In 2011, he moved to San German, Puerto Rico, where his coach José Ludwig Rubio works at Universidad Interamericana. Many of the top Dominican track athletes are attending and training at that university.
Fully healthy in 2012, he experienced his first indoor races at the World Championships in Istanbul, where he made it to the semifinals.
“It is different running indoors and there’s a lot of room for improvement. The more I run, the most comfortable I will be. I plan to run indoors in the US in 2013,” he said of his first experience running under the roof.
The summer season started early with a win and season’s best (45.29, 18 February) in his new home of San German, Puerto Rico, followed by a national junior record in the 200m (20.73, Mayagüez, 5 May).
His performance at the Pan American Games opened the doors for invitations to the Diamond League circuit and he did not disappoint, with a second place in Doha (44.88) and a victory in New York. In between, he ran the best race of his life so far in Hengelo (44.45) to confirm his status a major medal contender for the Olympic Games.
“I was so relaxed and it was a perfect day. I felt very strong running the homestretch. I was expecting a low 45s, but could not believe it was 44.45,” it really surprised me.
Santos improved his national record and in the process moved to the second place in the 2012 world lists. He also improved to third on the all-time junior lists.
The young Dominican has had a busy season, including a trip to the Iberoamerican Championships in Venezuela one day after his Diamond League win in New York to secure his country’s qualification for the Olympic Games in the 4x400m relay.
After a month of training in Alicante, Spain, he claimed his second global title by taking the world junior gold in Barcelona in comfortable fashion.
“I wanted to set a new championships record (44.66), but I had a slow first 200m and could not break it. Overall, it was a great experience standing on top of the podium and making my country proud of my win.”
He ended his pre-Olympic tune-up with a fourth place finish at the Diamond League stop in Monaco, in a race featuring World champion Kirani James and Olympic gold medallist Lashawn Merrit, as well as Belgian twins Jonathan and Kevin Borlee.
“They will be my main rivals in London. It was good to meet them before the Games and assess how my preparation is going,” he commented.
After Monaco, Santos joined the Dominican track team in a training camp in Leverkusen, Germany.
The young Dominican is well aware of his medal hopes and the high expectations back home, but he is trying to keep composed and continue to enjoy camaraderie with his teammates.
“We have trained well to run three good races in London. I am a fighter and when you fight, we can achieve anything. After the experience in Singapore, I look forward to enjoying my first Olympic Games in London and giving joy to my country. The track will have the final word.”
Santos draws inspiration from his compatriot Felix Sanchez, the two-time World and 2004 Olympic 400m hurdles champion.
“We first met at the Central American and Caribbean Games in Mayaguez in 2011 and he has been following my career. ‘You will take all my records’, he told me jokingly. We have been in touch through facebook and I follow his advice,” he said of Dominican Republic’s only Olympic champion in any sport.
Santos gives a lot of credit to his coach and his family for his success. “He has helped me realized my potential and I have full confidence in him. We get along very well and he is like a second father to me.”
Santos loves to spend quality time with his girlfriend, 400m hurdler Lilibeth Lileth Ramos, who is also part of Rubio’s training squad. The group includes 400m hurdler Winder Cuevas (49.20), 2011 Pan American Games 200m bronze medallist Mariely Sanchez and sprinter Raysa Sánchez.
In his limited time, he loves eating out and going to movies with his girlfriend and friends after training. He loves superheroes movies like Superman and Spiderman.
200m- 20.73 NJR (2012)
400m- 44.45 NR (2012)
400- 46.83 (2012)
2007- 54.99, 2008-50.75, 2009- 47.88, 2010-46.19 NYR NJR, 2011-44.71A NR, 2012-44.45 NR
2009 h Pan American Junior Championships (Port of Spain) 47.88
2009 6th Pan American Junior Championships (Port of Spain) (4x400) 3.13.18
2010 1st Youth Olympic Trials (San Salvador) 47.22
2010 2nd Central American and Caribbean Junior Championships (Santo Domingo) 46.94
2010 3rd Central American and Caribbean Junior Ch. (Santo Domingo) (4x400) 3.10.55
2010 6th World Junior Championships (Moncton) 46.90
2010 1st Youth Olympic Games (Singapore) 47.11
2010 1st Youth Olympic Games (Singapore) (Medley Relay) 1.51.38
2011 DNF Central American and Caribbean Championships (Mayagüez)
2011 2nd Pan American Games (Guadalajara) 44.71
2011 2nd Pan American Games (Guadalajara) (4x400) 3.00.44
2012 SF World Indoor Championships (Istanbul) 46.83
2012 3rd Iberoamerican Championships (Barquisimeto) (4x400) 3.03.02
2012 1st World Junior Championships (Barcelona) 44.85
Prepared by Javier Clavelo for the IAAF “Focus on Athletes” project. Copyright IAAF 2012