Updated 1 August 2008
Osleidys MENENDEZ Saenz, Cuba (Javelin)
Born 14 November 1979, Martí, Matanzas
1.78m / 80kg
Coach: Dionisio Quintana
Manager: Javier Sotomayor
The first Spanish speaking Latin American woman to break a World senior record, Osleidys Menendez is one the most talented athletes born in Cuba. The World record holder is set to defend her Olympic title in Beijing, although she knows the tough challenge posed by the Europeans.
The second oldest of seven siblings believes she inherited a strong right arm from her mother Dora, who practised softball and athletics. Her youngest sister, Misleydis, practised taekwondo. Her oldest brother was a pitcher in baseball. The youngest sibling, Lázaro, 13, has played several sports.
Osleidys took up the sport at the age of 11 and her talent for the throws was soon revealed. Her first coach, Noel Serrat, who discovered her strong arm, recommended taking her to Havana, where there are better training conditions.
Dionisio Quintana, who threw the javelin competitively (1971 to 1987) with a 84.35 personal best (old model), has trained Menendez since 1994. Under Quintana’s guidance, Menendez has developed a successful career spanning 13 years.
She won her first international competition in the 1995 at the Pan American Junior Championships in Santa Fe, Argentina, followed by two World junior titles, in Sydney 1996 and in Annecy, France, in 1998. At the age of 18, she made her debut at the senior World Championships, in Athens, in 1997, taking a good seventh place.
The Central American and Caribbean title, in Maracaibo in 1998, was followed by the 1999 Pan American crown in Winnipeg, and the Olympic bronze in Sydney 2000. In 1999, she set a World youth best of 66.49.
Menendez’s big year was 2001, when she became the first woman to break the 70 metres barrier (71.54) with the new specification javelin. She also claimed gold medals at the World Championships, in Edmonton, the World University Games, in Beijing, and the Goodwill Games, in Brisbane. She was not as good as in 2002, but she won when it counted: at the IAAF Grand Prix Final, in Paris, and the World Cup, in Madrid.
After a rising career, Menendez also learned a lot from a below par 2003, when she could only manage 63.96 and barely 60.20 for bronze at the Pan American Games, in Santo Domingo. With results far from expected, she decided to skip the World Championships, in Paris, and end the season.
Menendez returned to her top form in time to claim her first Olympic title, at Athens 2004, with a first round effort of 71.53, a Games record and just one centimetre shy of her World record, also set in Greece. "I looked at the Javelin and told myself that I had achieved what I wanted,” Menendez recalled. “I was focused on winning, not on breaking the (World) record. That's all I needed to erase a bad 2003.” She went on to win the World Athletics Final, in Monaco. In total, she won 14 of her 16 outings that year.
“I learned that I could not lose consistency in my training,” Menendez said. “I was a bit out of focus and minor injuries affected my technique. But I regained the concentration I needed in an Olympic year, thanks to the joint work of my coach, physician, physiotherapist, psychologist, and the support of my family.”
In 2005, Menendez remained strong with 11 wins in 13 appearances. She regained her World crown on the highest note, in front of a Javelin-crazy country (Helsinki, Finland). On the final day of the World Championships, and in her first attempt, Menendez released the 600g implement to 71.70, a World record, to seal a successful performance for Cuba in the Finnish capital.
“I came to win and the (World) record came out,” she said. “Thank God that I broke the World record because they (my opponents) were chasing me. Every time I go out on the track I try to do my best on the first throw. I cannot waste time and wait for the final rounds to win the gold medal. I try to start fast and hard.” She ended her season with her second consecutive victory at the World Athletics Final.
Similar to Athens, Menendez arrives in Beijing after two below-par years, affected by injuries, especially in her left ankle. She was only second at the 2006 CAC Games, in Colombia, but managed to regain her supremacy at the Pan American Games, in Rio de Janeiro, in one of her four competitions in 2007.
Menendez has gradually improved her results in 2008 and looks confident ahead of her Olympic crown defence. With a 65.02 effort in Bilbao, on 21 June, she ranks sixth in the 2008 IAAF Top Lists. Czech Barbora Spotakova, Germans Christina Obergföll and Steffi Nerius, as well as Russia’s Mariya Abakumova should be her main rivals for gold.
Menendez has good memories of her previous experience in China, where she dominated the World University Games final in 2001 (69.82). If she wins in Beijing, she will follow German Ruth Fuchs as the second woman to win two consecutive titles. “I feel the pressure of the people,” Menendez said. “They have high expectations of me. No Cuban woman has ever won two Olympic titles in an individual sport. I know I have to throw far, over 68 metres, to aim for the gold.
“I speak to the Javelin in my dreams and the energy is there. My philosophy is to go step by step. My experience tells me deep in my heart that the goal will be accomplished in Beijing.”
In her limited free time, Menendez likes different types of music, from hip hop to reggaeton, as well as salsa and romantic music. She also enjoys action and terror movies, cartoons and soap operas. She is expected to finish her Physical Education studies in December 2008.
71.70 WR (2005)
Old Model: 1994-53.98; 1995-54.30; 1996-62.64; 1997-66.92; 1998-68.17; 1999-67.59
New Model: 1999- 66.49; 2000- 67.83; 2001- 71.54 WR; 2002- 67.40; 2003- 63.96; 2004- 71.53; 2005- 71.70 WR; 2006- 65.02; 2007- 62.34; 2008- 65.02
1995 1st Pan- American Junior Championships
1996 1st World Junior Championships
1996 1st Central American and Caribbean Junior Championships
1997 7th World Championships
1997 1st Central American and Caribbean Championships
1997 1st Pan American Junior Championships
1998 2nd Central American and Caribbean Games
1998 1st World Junior Championships
1999 4th World Championships
1999 1st Pan American Games
2000 3rd Grand Prix Final
2000 3rd Olympic Games
2001 1st Goodwill Games
2001 1st World University Games
2001 1st World Championships
2002 1st Grand Prix Final
2002 1st World Cup
2003 5th World Championships
2003 3rd Pan American Games
2004 1st Ibero American Championships
2004 1st Olympic Games
2004 1st World Athletics Final
2005 1st World Championships
2005 1st World Athletics Final
2006 2nd Central American and Caribbean Games
2007 1st Pan American Games
Prepared by Javier Clavelo for the IAAF ‘Focus on Athletes’ project. Copyright IAAF 2008.