Octathlon World Youth and best record holder Yordanis Garcia and CAC Games medallists Andy González and Yarisley Silva lead a small but strong five-member Cuban team for the 11th IAAF World Junior Championships in Athletics, to be held in Beijing, 15-20 August.
The tall Garcia (1.93m) has surpassed the 7500 points mark in his first three decathlons of 2006, including a season’s best of 7880. The 17-year old from the western province of Pinar del Rio wants to equal his countryman Raul Duany, who claimed the Decathlon world junior title in 1992.
“It is a great privilege to represent Cuba at the World Junior Championships in Beijing after winning the gold medal at the World Youth Champs in Marrakech,” said Garcia, who aims to break the 8000 point barrier in the Chinese capital.
González, 18, ran 1:46.26 at 800m to become the youngest 2006 CAC Games athletic champion and the fastest non-Asian and non-African junior over the two-lap race since 2002.
His time, which erased the 42-year-old CAC junior record, ranks him fourth in the 2006 World Junior lists. He also broke the 1500m national junior standard with a time of 3:42.6.
“It will obviously be a very strong event. I am very happy to be Cuba’s youngest CAC Games champion in Cartagena and I take this and Beijing as a springboard for my career,” González said.
Considered an “intruder” by his family for excelling in an event dominated by African runners, he hopes to emulate his countrymen Norberto Tellez and Alain Miranda, who clinched 800m bronze medals at the 1990 and 1990 World Junior Championships.
Silva is the only woman in the small squad and the first Cuban female pole vaulter competing at the world level, and the first man or woman since Alberto Manzano’s fifth place at the 1990 Junior Worlds in Plovdid.
She has cleared 4.20 twice this year to break the national junior record in the event. She went on to claim her first international medal when second at the CAC Games in Cartagena.
The throws, the Island’s traditionally strongest area, will be represented by Carlos Véliz (Shot Put) and Jorge Fernandez (Discus).
Véliz improved the CAC junior record with a 20.32 meter toss, which places him second in the 2006 Junior Lists. He is the first Cuban man to compete in the Shot Put at the World Junior Champs, which will mark his international debut.
Jorge Y. Fernández, the 2005 Pan American Junior Championships silver medallist, has reached the 60 meter mark and completes the quintet with solid medal chances in the Chinese capital.
Yordanis Garcia is the only of the country’s seven medallists from the 2005 World Youth Championships in Marrakech.
Of the two other gold medallists in that Moroccan city, Triple jumper and 2006 World Junior Lists leader Hector Dairon Fuentes is recovering after undergoing surgery.
Marrakech’s 200m gold and 400m bronze medallist Aymée Martinez had a late start. After claiming her first national senior title, she ran 52.88 at the National Junior Champs in early July, but that performance was not enough to be included in the squad.
Cuba has participated in all World Junior Championships since its inaugural edition in Athens 1986. The Island nation has collected the highest number of titles by a Latin American country, with 16, plus 21 silver and 13 bronze medals for a total of 50. However, its participation has been very limited since Grosseto 2004, where only four athletes competed and Dayron Robles claimed the only medal with the 110m hurdles silver.
Over 30 athletes made the IAAF standards to compete in Beijing, but financial conditions determined a team of only five. The Island has been absent in the last two CAC Junior Championships.
Of the Cuban World Junior Medallists, ten have obtained Olympic and/ World Senior Championships, including world and Olympic champions Javier Sotomayor (High Jump), Osleidys Menéndez (Javelin) and Yumileidi Cumbá (shot Put).
Javier Clavelo Robinson for the IAAF
The Cuban team for Beijing:
Pole Vault: Yarisley Silva (DOB: 01 06 1987) PB-4.20
800m/1500m: Andy González (17.10.1987) PB-1:46.26/3:42.6
Shot Put: Carlos Véliz (12.08.1987) PB-20.32
Discus: Jorge Fernández (02.10.1987) PB-60.06
Decathlon: Yordanis Garcia (21.11.1988) PB-7.880