Updated 28 July 2012
Yarisley SILVA Rodriguez, Cuba (Pole Vault)
Born 1 June 1987, Pinar del Rio
Coach: Alexander Navas
Manager: Javier Sotomayor
Yarisley Silva is a very different athlete four years after her Olympic debut in Beijing. A World Indoor and Outdoor Championships finalist, 25-year old Silva and 2011 World Championships runner-up Lazaro Borges lead a historic feat for Cuba in London, as three athletes will represent the Island in the Pole Vault.
The middle child of three siblings, Silva was born to Jesus Silva Ferrer, a military man and a recreational long distance runner, and Magaly Rodriguez, a former Javelin thrower. Three aunts on her mother’s side practised athletics, including Maria de la Caridad Rodiguez, who introduced her to the sport when she was 9 years old.
While attending Manuel Ascunce elementary school, she contested 300m, the Long Jump and High Jump. Good results led her to the EIDE provincial sports school in Pinar del Rio.
Silva did not know what Pole Vault was when coach Nilo introduced her to the event at 13 years old. She liked it and cleared 2.40 in her first attempt. She improved to 2.50 for silver at the National School Games. A year later, she cleared 3.10 meters to win gold at the National School Games and was promoted to the national junior team in Havana in 2002.
Current coach Alexander Navas was her first trainer in the team and she improved to 3.70 in 2003, two days after taking silver at the National Championships.
During one season, she continued her preparation under former national record holder Angel Garcia and reached four meters in 2004, a Central American and Caribbean junior record. She also collected gold at the National Games.
She returned under Navas’ guidance following the 2004 season and continued to improve her area junior record to 4.10 in 2005 and 4.20 in 2006, a year that marked her first international participation.
Her first experience overseas came at the 2006 Central American and Caribbean Games in Cartagena, Colombia, where she won silver behind countrywoman Maryoris Sanchez. “It was a very positive first experience, being part of a Cuban delegation and winning a medal,“ recalled Silva.
Three weeks later, she travelled to Beijing for the World Junior Championships. “My poles did not arrive and I could not do technical work before the competition. A Canadian athlete lent me one a day before the qualification and I did not clear any height,” she commented on her unlucky trip.
After the end of her junior career, Silva took women’s Pole Vault in Cuba to the next level at the 2007 Pan American Games, in Rio de Janeiro, claiming bronze, the first medal by a Cuban pole vaulter at the event. She cleared 4.30 to erase her compatriot Katiuska Perez’s Cuban and Area record of 4.25, set in 2005.
“I could not quite enjoy the Games as I arrived two days before and left on the same night following the competition. But it certainly was an important highlight in my career,” she stated
Silva has grown as an athlete and before she started to join the world’s elite, she went through difficult years in her career. Highlighting courage as her strongest characteristic in sports, she admits that nerves have betrayed her and lack of confidence during take-off did not allow her to improve much in the following seasons.
In 2008, she achieved the Olympic standard and improved her Area record to 4.50 in her first competition of the year. With no international meets, she remained low par and only managed 4.15 in qualification at the Beijing Games. “I was not prepared psychologically for a world class competition, but seeing the world’s best up close for the first time was a great motivation to aim higher.”
In the next two years, she did not have any competitive opportunities overseas. She remained at the 4.40-4.50 level, claiming the 2009 Central American and Caribbean title, in Havana, as the most important accomplishment.
One important factor changed in 2011: opportunities to compete against top vaulters arrived. After smashing her Area record with a 4.55 clearance early in the season, she was invited to the Diamond League event in Shanghai, where however the result was a disappointing 4.20.
“I left Shanghai limping in my left foot, but I recovered quickly with ice. I had a second chance in Brazil and did not want to miss it.” And she certainly did not, as she cleared 4.60 at the Caixa GP in Rio de Janeiro in a close battle with World indoor champion and local idol Fabiana Murer.
Such a performance opened doors for her first European tour. She equalled her Area record in Velenje and improved it to 4.66 in Barcelona.
A good friend of her coach at the ISN Pamplona Atleticos club in Pamplona, Spain, provided better poles for her and Lazaro Borges and they proved to be crucial for both athletes at the World Championships in Daegu. With two Spirit and two carbon poles, she soared to another Area record with 4.70 to finish fifth in Daegu, while Borges claimed a historic silver.
“I was very nervous the day before qualification and did not sleep at all that night. I fouled in every height, but managed to qualify. In the final, I was more composed and confident. I fouled twice at 4.70, but gave it all and managed to clear in my last attempt. I was ready for 4.80 and I had a good third try, but I had cramps in my calves and could not clear it,” she commented on a long final that propelled her to the world’s elite. “I felt like a champion as well,” Silva said of competing at par with the world’s best. “It was the realisation of my dream and enjoying a moment for which I fought so hard. It is a sensational feeling.”
She capped her best season ever with the much-awaited gold at the Pan American Games, in Guadalajara, clearing another Area record of 4.75 to beat World champion Fabiana Murer of Brazil, who achieved 4.70. Borges completed a historic double win for Cuba in the event four days later.
“It was the most beautiful competition in my life. She cleared and I responded. All other events finished and it came down to the two of us. The crowd was cheering us. Fabiana congratulated me and it was a big win for me,” Silva recalled fondly.
In 2012, she entered her first indoor season and jumped consistently at 4.60-4.72, setting, equalling and improving the Area record four times. She sealed a successful campaign with a seventh place at the World Indoor Championships in Istanbul.
“I loved competing indoors. It is cosier and there is music too in some meets. No wind. It is certainly a good experience.”
In May, she defeated Murer twice in Brazil and set a season’s outdoor best of 4.70 at the Diamond League event in New York. She ended her Olympic preparation with second place at the Diamond League meet in Monaco, facing almost all top Olympic medal contenders, and another clearance over 4.60 in Jockgrim, Germany.
“The Brazilian tour motivated me a lot. The focus was on my duel with Fabiana and it helped me improve as a vaulter. I have stayed consistent throughout the season and my coach and I have been working to reach 4.80. That’s my goal for the Olympics. I aim to finish top five,” she commented on her chances in London. “I am well aware the Olympic final will have a very high level. It is not just Isinbayeva or Murer. You have to add Bleasdale, Suhr, the Germans, among others. Nothing is impossible and I will fight. There is a lot to improve on, but in order to achieve my goals, I need to better myself. By doing so, I believe I am on the right track to realise my dreams,” she added.
Her training partner Dailis Caballero, who reached 4.50, will join her in London, for a record three Cuban vaulters in the Summer Games.
In her limited spare time, Silva enjoys dancing and shopping, as well as visiting her family in Pinar del Rico twice a month from her training base in Havana. She expects to complete her Physical education degree in 2013.
Pole Vault: 4.75 (2011) 4.72i (2012)
Triple Jump: 12.07 (2003)
2001-2.50, 2002-3.10, 2003-3.70, 2004-4.00 AJR, 2005-4.10 AJR, 2006-4.20 AJR, 2007-4.30 AR, 2008-4.50 AR, 2009-4.50 AR, 2010-4.40, 2011-4.75A AR, 2012-4.70/4.72i
2003 2nd National Championships, Havana 3.60
2004 1st National Games, Havana 3.80
2005 3rd National Championships, Havana 3.80
2006 1st National Championships, Havana 4.10
2006 2nd Central American and Caribbean Games, Cartagena 3.95
2006 NH World Junior Championships, Beijing
2007 3rd Pan American Games, Rio de Janeiro 4.30
2008 q Olympic Games, Beijing 4.15
2009 1st Central American and Caribbean Championships, Havana 4.40
2011 5th World Championships, Daegu 4.70
2011 1st Pan American Games, Guadalajara 4.75
2012 7th World Indoor Championships, Istanbul 4.55
Prepared by Javier Clavelo for the IAAF ‘Focus on Athletes’ project. © IAAF 2012