Updated 28 February 2008
Yumileidi CUMBÁ Jay, Cuba (Shot Put)
Born 11 February 1975, Guantánamo; 1.83m, 105kg
Manager: Javier Sotomayor/Jesús Molina; Coach: Justo Navarro
With no sports background in her family, Yumileidi Cumbá took physical education classes every week, like all young people in Cuba, playing volleyball, basketball and other team sports, as well as athletics. "I chose athletics because I liked to run, jump and throw,” Cumbá recalled. “I remember watching Luis Mariano Delis (1980 Olympic men’s discus bronze medallist) on TV.”
Cumba, who has been tall and well-built since her teens, started to train at the age of 10 under the guidance of Eduardo Douglas Bronx, at the Sports School in Guantánamo. She was then upgraded to the national Junior Sports School in Havana in 1989, where she stared training with her current coach, Justo Navarro. “I liked the shot and the discus and practised both as a junior, but then I had to choose and picked the shot,” Cumbá said. “I have been training with Justo since I arrived in Havana. He is like a father to me.”
Cumbá savoured her first international success in 1990 when she finished second at the Central American and Caribbean Under-17 Championships in Havana and, with a 17.44 effort, in 1992, she became the top junior shot putter on the island. She was included in the Cuban team for her first international competition, the World Junior Championships, in Seoul, where she finished fourth and, a year later, claimed her first international win at the Pan American Junior Championships in Winnipeg. At senior level, she added silver at the Central American and Caribbean Games, in Ponce, Puerto Rico, and silver in the Central American and Caribbean Championships, in Cali, Colombia.
In 1994, Cumbá ended her last season as a junior with the first of her eight senior national titles and the silver medal at the World Junior Championships, in Lisbon. She improved her PB by over a metre, from 17.70 to 18.78, a national junior record, which still stands.
Cumbá confirmed her progress early in 1995 when she broke the 19m barrier (19.11) in Havana, but could not repeat that form during the Pan American Games, in Mar del Plata, Argentina, where she was only third. Bad luck continued later that year. At the World Championships, in Gothenburg, she tore her ligaments and also the internal meniscus in her right knee. She could manage only a poor 15.80 and did not reach the final. That was the end of the season and she underwent surgery back in Havana.
After the surgery, her right knee was no longer the same. In 1996, she could only produce 18.57 and just missed the Olympic final with 18.55 in 13th position. The pain became severe again during a weight training session early in 1997 and she had to undergo a second surgery. She could not compete at all that year.
Back in the circle in 1998, Cumbá took the gold medal at the Central American and Caribbean Games in Macaraibo, Venezuela, and ended the season with a 19.20 best and a fourth place at the IAAF World Cup, in Johannesburg.
The following year marked her return to World Championships with two sixth places – indoors, in Maebashi, Japan, and outdoors, in Seville. She improved her PB to 19.29 and won gold at the World University Games in Palma de Mallorca, Spain. She was also second at the Pan American Games in Winnipeg.
Two months before the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Cumbá continued her progress with a 19.48 mark and finished sixth at the Games. Post-Olympic year saw her finish fifth at the World Indoor Championships, in Lisbon, and eighth outdoors in Edmonton. She also successfully defended her crown at the World University Games, in Beijing, and was second at the Goodwill Games, in Brisbane. Her bests then were 19.10 indoors and 19.00 out.
In 2002, Cumbá produced her most notable result in the last event of the season - second at the World Cup, in Madrid. She had one of her busiest years with 14 outings, of which she won 11, including her first Ibero-American title, in Guatemala City. Her best was 19.39.
A year later, she finally made it to the top of the podium at the Pan American Games, in Santo Domingo, with her season's best of 19.31. She was also sixth at the World Indoor Championships, in Birmingham, but failed to qualify for the final of the outdoor World Championships, in Paris.
Cumbá was determined to have a better 2004 and started well with her first medal at a global senior championships, silver at the World Indoors, in Budapest. That medal was upgraded to silver following the doping disqualification of Ukraine's Vita Pavlysh. The Cuban then went on to become a surprise gold medallist at the 2004 Olympic Games, in Athens (19.59) following the doping disqualification of Russia's Irina Korzhanenko.
Cumbá became the first non-European to win the Olympic gold in women's shot put history and she also joined the exclusive list of women from her country who have claimed an Olympic title in athletics. In that respect, she followed Maria Caridad Colón (javelin, Moscow 1980) and Maritza Martén (discus, Barcelona 1992) while Javelin thrower Osleidys Menéndez joined the roll call a few days later in Athens. Cumbá won eight of her 11 finals that year and improved her PB by almost half a metre, to 19.97, at the Ibero-American Championships in Huelva, Spain. She exceeded 19 metres in nine of her 13 outings.
However, her performances were restricted by physical problems in 2005, managing a season’s best of only 19.06. She won the Central American and Caribbean Games title, in Nassau, but was only sixth at the 2005 World Championships, in Helsinki, and seventh at her World Athletics Final debut, in Monaco.
Recovered from a leg injury sustained in November 2005, Cumbá opened her 2006 season in Havana with a 19.14 effort and went on to finish fifth at the World Indoor Championships, in Moscow. She stayed consistent throughout the year, putting over 19 metres in eight competitions, including her 2006 best of 19.66, a mark second only to her area record of 19.97.
After claiming her second CAC Games gold in Cartagena, Colombia, Cumbá finished fourth at the World Athletics Final, in Stuttgart, and returned to Athens, where she finished third at the World Cup.
Cumbá has been battling with a recurrent pain and right knee and, in 2007, lost the Pan American Games crown to her training partner Misleydis González in Rio de Janeiro and was only 12th at the World Championships in Osaka.
In 2008, which is probably her farewell season, she plans to regain a medal placing in her sixth World Indoor Championship, as she did four years ago in Budapest, before defending her Olympic crown later this summer in Beijing.
19.97 (2004), 19.31i (2004)
1990 - 14.53; 1991 - 15.84; 1992 - 17.44; 1993 - 17.70; 1994 - 18.78; 1995 - 19.11; 1996 - 18.57; 1998 - 19.20; 1999 - 19.29; 2000 - 19.48; 2001 - 19.10i; 2002 - 19.39; 2003 - 19.31; 2004 - 19.97; 2005 - 19.06; 2006 - 19.66; 2007- 18.81.
1990 2nd Central American and Caribbean Under-17 Championships
1992 4th World Junior Championships
1993 1st Pan American Junior Championships
1993 2nd Central American and Caribbean Games
1993 2nd Central American and Caribbean Championships
1994 2nd World Junior Championships
1995 3rd Pan American Games
1998 2nd Central American and Caribbean Games
1998 4th World Cup
1999 6th World Indoor Championships
1999 2nd Pan American Games
1999 1st World University Games
1999 6th World Championships
2000 6th Olympic Games
2001 5th World Indoor Championships
2001 8th World Championships
2001 1st World University Games
2002 1st Ibero-American Championships
2002 2nd World Cup, Madrid
2003 6th World Indoor Championships
2003 1st Pan American Games
2004 2nd World Indoor Championships
2004 1st Ibero-American Championships
2004 1st Olympic Games, Athens
2005 6th World Championships
2006 5th World Indoor Championships
2006 1st Central American and Caribbean Games
2006 4th World Athletics Final
2006 3rd World Cup
2007 2nd Pan American Games
2007 12th World Championships
Prepared by Javier Clavelo for the IAAF ‘Focus on Athletes’ project. Copyright IAAF 2008