Updated 03 August 2008
Yargelis SAVIGNE Herrera, Cuba (Long Jump, Triple Jump)
Born: 13 November 1984, Guantánamo
1.65m / 53kg
Coach: Milán Matos
Manager: Javier Sotomayor
The oldest of four children (two boys and two girls), Yargelis Savigne was born in the town of Niceto Pérez, some 10km from the city of Guantánamo, in the easternmost province of Cuba. There is no sporting background in her immediate family, but distant relatives of Savigne, whose family nickname is “Yayi”, have excelled in baseball and boxing.
Savigne took up athletics in school at the age of 11 and was promoted to the Rafael Freyre EIDE Sports School on the outskirts of Guantánamo. She was a sprinter initially, but she preferred the jumps. When the school moved to a new building in the city in 1997, she started to train under the guidance of Eduardo Grant, who taught her triple and long jumping.
Good results in the National School Games enabled her to train in the ESPA Sports School in her province, under coach Arnaldo Charadan’s guidance. By 2000, she had improved to 5.92 in the Long Jump and 12.65 in the Triple Jump. She focused on the Long Jump, and a 6.24 win at the National Junior Championships, in Santiago, opened the door to the national junior team in 2001.
When Savigne arrived in Havana, she started to train with former triple jumper Daniel Osorio. She made her international debut on a high note, winning the 2002 CAC Junior crown in Bridgetown, Barbados (6.25), but an injury to her right knee ruined her medal chances at the World Junior Championships in Kingston, Jamaica. She qualified for the final, but she was in such pain that could not contest the medals.
Fully recovered, Savigne made great progress early in 2003, when she broke the national junior record (6.63). But her training partner, Yudelkis Fernández, improved it to 6.69 three months later.
Savigne made her senior debut at the 2003 Pan American Games in Santo Domingo, where she took bronze with a jump of 6.40. In 2004, she was 3rd at the Banamex Grand Prix in Mexico City, with 6.60; Fernández was second with 6.74 and was the only athlete selected for the Olympics.
Savigne’s breakthrough year was 2005 as she improved her Long Jump best to 6.77 in Havana and joined the Cuban team for the European tour for the first time. But there was a shortage of Long Jump competitions on the European circuit, so her coach Milán Matos urged her to try the Triple Jump, and the results were promising from the start: 14.12 for 2nd in Bilbao in June using a nine-step run-up, then 14.56 with 11 steps to win in Zaragoza, and 14.63 for 2nd in Padova.
Meanwhile, she popped a 6.77 long jump PB in Havana in May, won her first GP meet in Prague in June (6.71) and won the Long Jump at the CAC in Nassau (6.88w) in July. She decided to double at the World Championships, in Helsinki, and rising to the occasion, she improved her Triple Jump PB four times in the Final, culminating in 14.82, to become the surprise silver medallist. Three days later, she almost reached the podium again with a respectable 4th (6.69) in the Long Jump.
The Helsinki success was followed by 3rd places in the Brussels (14.48) and Berlin (14.57) Golden League meetings, and a convincing 14.81 for 3rd at the World Athletics Final, in Monaco, where she beat Jamaica’s World champion, Trecia Smith, for the first time. In 2006, Savigne finished fifth in the Triple Jump and sixth in the Long Jump at the World Indoor Championships, in Moscow. Outdoors, she went on to break her national Triple Jump record, with 14.91 in Athens in July, but fell ill shortly after and was forced to end her season.
In 2007, Savigne broke the Cuban Long Jump (6.79, Stuttgart, Feb 3) and Triple Jump (14.80, Düsseldorf, Feb 6) indoor records as a good prelude to a better summer. She finally broke the 15m barrier and claimed her first major international Triple Jump gold at the Pan American Games, in Rio de Janeiro.
A month later, she took off to an impressive first round effort of 15.28 to claim the World title in Osaka. In the process, she moved up to the sixth on the all-time lists. She ended the season by winning the Triple Jump at the World Athletics Final, in Stuttgart.
Indoors in 2008, Savigne landed at 6.77, close to her Long Jump national indoor record. Unlike in Moscow in 2006, when she competed in both events, she focused on the Triple Jump at the World Indoor Championships, in Valencia, and produced her best jump in the last round (15.05) to strike gold, the first for Cuba since 2001.
“I sustained a right hamstring injury in the winter in Germany and could not compete for 25 days before Valencia,” Savigne said. ”It was a real challenge, but I never gave up, fought hard, and managed to strike gold in the last round with my first leap over 15m indoors.”
After a short break following her indoor campaign, Savigne completed a one-month training camp in Venezuela, prior to the European tour. Once in Europe, she won five of her seven outings against many of the top contenders for the Olympics in Beijing. She went over 15m three times, including a season’s best and her second farthest leap ever (15.20), in Réthimno, on 14 July.
“I am happy with my results in the lead-up to Beijing,” Savigne said. “The competition will be fierce, but I am ready to respond and take one of the three medals.” Savigne responds calmly when questioned about the World record. The current mark (15.50) has been intact for almost 15 years, but “it could be smashed any time”.
“Tatyana Lebedeva (Russia) and Hrysopiyí Devetzí (Greece) are two strong rivals and they have also been close to the record. Francoise Mbango Etone (Cameroon) is ready to defend her Olympic title, the Slovenian (Marija Sestak) is on the rise and the Chinese (Limei Xie) will be supported by her crowd.
“My main focus is the Olympic gold, but that could mean getting close or surpassing the 15.50 in Beijing. It will be a very good competition to watch”. With that goal in mind, the fast Cuban is focusing on her speed, take-off and landing in order to maximise her chances in every jump.
Savigne owes part of her rapid progress to the good advice from her coach, Milán Matos, and nine-time World and 2000 Long Jump Olympic champion Iván Pedroso. “I feel confident with Milán,” she said. “I am in good hands and he motivates me to aim high. Iván (Pedroso) retired but he is always there to give me tips and help me do the right things. I am lucky to learn from champions like him.”
Although the Triple Jump has become her main event, Savigne insists she will continue long jumping and is also registered to contest the event in the Chinese capital. “The seven metre barrier is still a target,” she said. “I am young and hope to reach that mark soon.”
Savigne has maintained a relationship with 2008 CAC Decathlon champion Yosley Azcuy. “My family and he have always been by my side, in good and bad times,” she said. Away from track, Savigne likes watching films and soap operas, as well as listening to reggae, hip hop and classic music. She is in her fourth year as a student of physical education at the Higher Sports Institute in Havana. Her father, Diosdado, is a driver, and her mother, Marbelis, a manicurist.
Long Jump: 6.77 (2005); 6.88w (2005) Indoors: 6.79 NR (2007)
Triple Jump: 15.28 (2007), Indoors: 15.05 AR (2008)
Long Jump: 2000- 5.92; 2001- 6.24; 2002- 6.46; 2003- 6.63; 2004- 6.60; 2005 6.77/6.88w; 2006- 6.67/6.81w; 2007- 6.66 (6.79i)/6.81w: 2008-6.77i
Triple Jump: 1999- 12.65; 2001- 13.03; 2005- 14.82; 2006- 14.91; 2007- 15.28; 2008-15.20
2005 1st Central American and Caribbean Championships
2005 2nd World Championships
2005 3rd World Athletics Final
2006 5th World Indoor Championships
2007 1st Pan American Games
2007 1st World Championships
2007 1st World Athletics Final
2008 1st World Indoor Championships
2002 1st Central American and Caribbean Junior Championships
2003 3rd Pan American Games
2005 4th World Championships
2005 1st Central American and Caribbean Championships
2006 6th World Indoor Championships
2007 3rd Pan American Games
Prepared by Javier Clavelo for the IAAF ‘Focus on Athletes’ project. © IAAF 2006-2008.