Havana. Yordanis García has never met Andres Silva, but certainly knew the Uruguayan set a world best to win the Octathlon title at the 3rd IAAF World Youth Championships, two years ago in Sherbrooke, Canada.
Silva’s coach, Andres Barrios, visited Havana in May for an Olympic Solidarity course. At the Estadio Panamericano, Cubans introduced García to him and said that he would break Silva’s performance.
The 1.90 tall boy from the western province of Pinar del Río definitely had the conditions to become a good combined events specialists, but it was too soon to think of a world record. The predictions of Gabino Arzola, the head of combined events at the national team, were taken as a joke.
But he turned out to be right as the 16-year old totalled 6482 points to erase the previous mark (6456) and gave Cuba its first medal at the IAAF/Maroc Telecom World Youth Championships in Marrakech.
The Octathlon best is still Latin American property and Garcia is the third Cuban to hold a world youth best. Javier Sotomayor and Luis Bueno still own the High Jump (2.33) and Long Jump (8.25) standards set in the 1980´s.
Born in the rural town of Rio Feo, in the tobacco region of San Luis, Yordanis was just another kid in the provincial athletic team of Pinar del Rio. Arzola saw him just 15 weeks before the 2003 National Youth Games and his coach Francisco Aguilar recommended to follow him during competition.
He finished a disappointing eighth and Arzola had a hard time to convince officials to take the kid to train with the national junior team in Havana.
“He is a tall kid and tall athletes take more time to mature. I saw him training and realized he had something inside”, recalled Arzola, who has been 20 years in the combined events.
However, another low par 2004 followed with injuries and Garcia was only fourth at the National Youth Games. But Arzola still had confidence in him.
Under the guidance of coaches Yolaida Pompa, a former 5871-point heptathlete, and Iosvani Ciscal, Garcia resumed training with the World Youth Championships in sight.
Arzola kept reminding that “el niño” (the kid), as he is nicknamed, had the potential to break the world record.
With a good number of athletes trying to make the national team, he had scored a 6765 decathlon to finish sixth at the National Senior Champs in March, but needed to do an Octathlon to meet the entry standard to be eligible for the team.
In May, he was en route to get closer to the global standard, but competing alone was not easy.
He hit a barrier in the 110m hurdles and literally suffered to finish the 1000m in 3:01 minutes to set a national youth record of 6099 to move up to the third place in the 2005 World Youth Lists.
Later that month, he surprised many as he won the individual Javelin gold medal at the National Youth Championships with a 62.24-meter effort. He was also fourth in the Shot Put.
García is one of six members – three boys and three girls - of the national junior team. A quiet, respectful and laconic boy, he just finished the first year of Physical Education. According to his closer friends, he eats a lot and loves to dance. His trainers believe the coordination in dancing will help him run better in the Long Jump, his weakest event.
At home, his mother Maria Cristina Barrisonte is a housewife and his father Víctor García works as a farmer in San Luis. A sister of his mother, Yenima Arencibia Barrisonte, is the country’s third best Cuban in the 100-meter hurdles today with a 13.29 personal best.
Yordanis is the most recent talent of the promising new combined events generation on the Island, following the period 1994-2000, when Raúl Duany – today the head coach of the national team - and Eugenio Balanqué became the first Cuban to complete a decathlon over 8.000 points.
Today, the group is led by 28-year old Alberto Juantorena Jr, a 7764 performer, followed by Alexis Chivás, 21, who shows a personal best of 7624.
Former 110-meter hurdles Carlos Patterson, 27, has improved to 7425 and there are four other men, aged 22 or younger, over 7.000 points. The list includes juniors Leonel Suárez (7267) and Yunior Díaz (7161).
“Our dream is to see three Cubans compete at the 2012 Olympic Games in London. We also have a good tradition in the heptathlon and our women today are working to achieve 6,000 points”, added Arzola.
“We believe Yordanis can break Duany’s national junior and senior records”.
Yordanis, Leonel and Yunior also see the 2006 World Junior Champs in Beijing as their next major goal in their careers.
The newly crowned world youth campion follows the footsteps of Duany, who won the 1992 world junior title in Seoul. Another decathlete from his province of Pinar del Río, Jesus Mirabal, was the first Cuban medallist in the Pan American Games with two bronzes in 1971 and 1975. He was the first Cuban to break the 7,000-points mark and took the national standard to 7506.
Cuba now total 14 medals in the history of the World Youth Champs: four gold, six silver and four bronze.
After his gold, the six other members of the Cuban delegation in Marrakech are very motivated to obtain good results: Aymée Martinez (400m), Yisel Velasco (400m H), Jorge Valcarcel (200m), Yanet Cruz (Javelin) and Osmel Charlot (Discus), as well as triple jumper Héctor Dairon Fuentes.