World 110m Hurdles record holder Dayron Robles and World Triple Jump champion Yargelis Savigne lead the 47-member Cuban athletics team for the 29th Olympic Games in Beijing, the National Federation (FCA) announced.
Liu’s strongest rival
Both stars will make their Olympic debut. Robles broke the World record (12.87) in Ostrava, on June 12, and has gone unbeaten in his last eight races. He became the first man to run under 12.90 twice as he clocked 12.88 in Paris and is also the first man to dip under 13 seconds four times in a single season.
The 21-year old is seen as one the major threats to Chinese hero Liu Xiang's Olympic title defence. In the process, he improved Liu's World record by one hundredth of a second. They have not met this summer.
However, he will be the sole Cuban in the sprint hurdles as two-time Olympic medallist Anier Garcia failed to meet the A qualifying standard (13.55) and two-time Olympian and seven-time World championships participants Yoel Hernandez did not recover from a back injury.
Savigne at the double
Savigne, the World champion indoors and out, has shown a very consistent form this summer. With three outings over 15m during her pre-Olympic campaign, the 23-year old is ready to improve her Cuban record of 15.28 and get closer to the 15.50m world mark.
The Pan American champion will also double in the Long Jump, as she did at the 2005 World Championships in Helsinki and the 2006 World Indoor Champs in Moscow.
Menendez and Cumba to defend titles
World Javelin record holder Osleidys Menendez and Yumileidi Cumbá will defend their Olympic crowns in the Javelin Throw and Shot Put, respectively.
The former has gradually improved her form after recovering from an ankle injury that sidelined her in the past two seasons. The most experienced athlete in the squad and with the three Olympics already in her bag, Cumbá is expected to end her athletics career in Beijing.
Lopez and Calatayud at 800
Other top medal bets are Yeimer López and Zulia Calatayud in the 800m, as well as Yipsi Moreno in the Hammer throw.
Pan American champion López posted the second fastest time in the two-lap race with 1:43.07, just over two tenths of a second off the Cuban record. He already had an Olympic experience in Athens 2004, when he reached the semi-finals in the 400m.
Olympic years have proven to be very extra difficult for Zulia Calatayud, but the 2005 World champion has gradually improved her times and hopes to make it to the podium.
Don’t forget Moreno
Perhaps the most consistent athlete in the whole delegation, Yipsi Moreno has not missed any podium at a global event since she claimed the first of her two World titles in Edmonton 2001.
Fourth in Sydney 2000 and runner-up in Athens, she is ready to throw over her Area record of 76.36 and aim for the gold in the Chinese capital.
She is joined by Arasay Thondike and 2004 Olympic bronze medallist Yunaika Crawford, who hope to make it to the final as they did in Osaka 2007.
Yarelis Barrios, the bronze medallist at the World Championships in Osaka 2007, is also a top contender for the medals in the Discus.
The three names in the men's Triple Jump are yet to be defined among
Alexis Copello, 2005 World Youth champion Héctor Dairon Fuentes, 2008 World Indoor Championships runner-up Arnie David Giralt and Osniel Tosca.
The Island's main absentees are 2005 World High Jump silver medallist Victor Moya and four-time Triple Jump world medallist Yoandri Betanzos.
Moya underwent surgery after breaking his right kneecap at the CAC Champs in Cali. Betanzos has been diminished by a slipped disk.
Only 12 of the 47 athletes have Olympic experience. New national record holders Anay Tejeda (100m hurdles-12.60), Lázaro Borges (5.70) and Yarisley Silva (4.50) in the Pole Vault and Leonel Suárez (8,451 points) in the Decathlon are also in the roster.
The largest Cuban contingent in a global event since the 1996 Olympic makes up more than 40 percent of total delegation and will contest 12 male and 14 female events.
At age 18, World Junior 400m bronze medallist Susana A. Clement and Omar Cisnero are the youngest members in the squad. Both will run the 4x400m relay.
Cuba made its Olympic Athletics debut at the 1904 Games in Saint Louis and won its first medal in Tokyo'64 when Enrique Figuerola claimed the 100m silver.
The Island has collected 32 medals (9 gold, 11 silver and 12 bronze) in athletics, almost a fifth of the 170 medals it has won in all sports in Olympic history.
Javier Clavelo Robinson for the IAAF
Cuban team for Beijing
100m Henry Vizcaíno
400m William Collazo
800m Yeimar López, Andy González
110m H Dayron Robles
PV Lázaro Borges
LJ Ibrahin Camejo, Wilfredo Martínez
TJ Alexis Copello, Héctor Dairon Fuentes, Arnie David Giralt or Osniel Tosca
SP Carlos Véliz, Alexis Paumier, Reinaldo Proenza
DT Jorge Fernández
JT Anier Boué
Decathlon Leonel Suárez, Yordani García, Yunior Díaz
4x400m Yeimer López, William Collazo, Omar Cisneros, Yunier Pérez, Yasmani Copello, Yunior Díaz
100m Virgen Benavides
200m Roxana Díaz
400m Indira Terrero
800m Zulia Calatayud
100m H Anay Tejeda, Yenima Arencibia
PV Yarisley Silva
LJ Yargelis Savigne
TJ Yargelis Savigne, Mabel Gay, Yarianna Martínez
SP Misleydis González, Mailín Vargas, Yumileidi Cumbá
DT Yarelis Barrios, Yania Ferrales
HT Yipsi Moreno, Arasay Thondike, Yunaika Crawford
JT Osleidys Menéndez, Yanet Cruz
Heptathlon Gretchen Quintana
4x400m Indira Terrero, Roxana Díaz, Diosmely Peña, Susana Clement, Daysurami Bonne, Aymée Martínez