Sahily Diago

Athlete Profile

    Cuba Cuba
    26 AUG 1995

Personal Best - Outdoor

Performance Wind Place Date
400 Metres 53.87 La Habana (Estadio Panamericano) 18 MAR 2014
800 Metres 1:57.74 La Habana (Estadio Panamericano) 25 MAY 2014
1000 Metres 2:37.5 La Habana (Estadio Panamericano) 25 APR 2014
1500 Metres 4:14.73 La Habana (Estadio Panamericano) 09 OCT 2014

Progression - Outdoor

400 Metres

Performance Place Date
2014 53.87 La Habana (Estadio Panamericano) 18 MAR
2012 54.20 San Salvador 01 JUL

800 Metres

Performance Place Date
2016 1:58.84 Puebla 17 APR
2015 1:59.91 Ponce 23 MAY
2014 1:57.74 La Habana (Estadio Panamericano) 25 MAY
2013 2:01.30 La Habana (Estadio Panamericano) 28 JUN
2012 2:03.67 La Habana (Estadio Panamericano) 08 JUN
2011 2:04.09 La Habana (Estadio Panamericano) 17 JUN

1000 Metres

Performance Place Date
2014 2:37.5 La Habana (Estadio Panamericano) 25 APR
2013 2:42.8 La Habana (Estadio Panamericano) 28 NOV

1500 Metres

Performance Place Date
2014 4:14.73 La Habana (Estadio Panamericano) 09 OCT

Honours - 800 Metres

Rank Mark Wind Place Date
The XXXI Olympic Games 3h1 2:01.38 Rio de Janeiro (Estádio Olímpico) 17 AUG 2016
2nd IAAF Continental Cup 2014 6 2:00.96 Marrakech (Le Grande Stade) 13 SEP 2014
IAAF World Junior Championships 2014 2 2:02.11 Eugene (Hayward Field), OR 24 JUL 2014
7th IAAF World Youth Championships 5sf1 2:08.25 Lille 08 JUL 2011

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Updated 8 September 2014


Sahily DIAGO MESA, Cuba (800m)  

Born: 26 August 1995, Jovellanos (Matanzas)

Weight: 52kg Height: 1,71m 

Coach: Frank Ayala


The only child of former 400m-800m runner Rosa Mesa and Miguel Diago, Sahily was born in the small town of Carlos Rojas in the municipality of Jovellanos, in the western of province of Matanzas. She has an older sister on her father’s side.

Her mother, a Physical Education teacher, has been the sporting influence in her life. A hyperactive girl, she was enrolled in basketball when she was 10, but opted for athletics a few weeks later. “I was always running when I was a kid. I didn’t like basketball much so I changed to athletics,” she recalled. Soel Santuntun, aka "Cholo", was her first coach.

Success soon followed at municipal and provincial level, which earned her the right to compete at the National School Games in Havana. She ran 60m, 1200m, did High and Long Jump, as well as throwing a baseball ball. Her performance opened her doors at the provincial sports school in the city of Matanzas.


At the 2010 National Youth Games, Sahily won the 800m in 2:12.4 minutes and finished second in 1200m. Those performances allowed her to join the national junior team in Havana.

Joining the national junior team in Havana meant being away from her family for the first time. “She would cry every day. I thought she would be able to handle being away from her parents. We did a thorough psychological work. Her family helped a lot,” recalled her coach Frank Ayala.

Under his supervision, she showed rapid progress. She took her personal bests to 55.47 in 400m and 2:04.09 in 800m. She was ranked third in the world in the longer distance and was considered a top medal contender for the 2011 World Youth Championships in Lille.

However, she had a tonsillitis crisis a week before she left for France. She could not recover on time and could not advance past the semifinals.

“The World Youth Championships was the first time I competed overseas so I will always remember that experience, but I left with a bitter feeling, knowing that I could have performed better if I was healthy,” she said.


In 2012, she peaked later than expected. She ran a personal best of 2:00.9 in 800m and 54.20 in 400m. That time earned her the silver medal at the Central American and Caribbean Junior Championships in El Salvador. As she achieved 2:00.9 in late June, she could not meet all the travel requirements in time to participate at the World Junior Championships.

However, she was named an alternate runner as part of the Cuban 4x400m squad for the Olympic Games in London.

“It was an incredible experience more so being the youngest of the Cuban athletics team. I did not run, but managed to feel the spirit of the Olympic Village. I watched several races live in the stadium. I have great memories of seeing Alyson Felix and the women’s 400m final,” Sahily commented.


In 2013, she put more emphasis on her studies to finish high school. She won her first national senor title and competed internationally in Martinique, Brazil and Colombia.

In the latter, she was the top favorite to win gold at the Pan American Junior Championships, but was disqualified for obstructing a Canadian athlete in the final stretch.

“I was overconfident going into the final. I did not place myself and paid the price. It was certainly a lesson that I will not forget”.

Continued hard work and dedication paved the way for her breakthrough in 2014.

Early in March she set a world junior leading 2:01.87 and then set an impressive world leading and Area Junior Record of 1:58.14. Two weeks later, she smashed legendary Ana Fidelia Quirot’s meet record at the Barrientos Memorial with another world class 1:57.74. That time ranks her third on the Cuban all-time lists behind 1995 and 1997 World champion Ana Fidelia Quirot (1:54.44) and 2005 World champion Zulia Calatayud (1:56.09), as well as eighth on the junior all-time lists. She was now billed as a top contender for gold at the World Junior Championships in Eugene.


In addition, she also improved her 400m best to 53.87.

Those performances opened her door to her first races in Europe, including her Diamond League debut in Rome, where she finished second behind World champion Eunice Sum.

Rome was a beautiful experience, running with women I had only seen on TV. My coach told me how the race would unfold and it happened exactly as he said it.  I met Caster Semenya and she gave me words of encouragement,” commented Diago.

She was invited to Hengelo, but not fully recovered from Rome; she sustained a first degree rupture. With no coach around to guide her, “I still ran because I was already there.”

She soon returned to Havana, where she has recovered well in time for Eugene. At Hayward Field, she tested her competitive spirit again and for the first time did three races over the same number of days.

Taken by surprise by Iceland’s Aníta Hinriksdóttir’s fast first lap (under 57 seconds) in the final, Diago had a lot of physical contact with Kenya’s Margaret Wambui,, who overtook her in the final 100m to grab gold, a second a half ahead of the Cuban.


“The Kenyan athlete was very strong. I could have run the first lap faster, to avoid all the physical contact with Wambui that affected my ability to sprint faster in the end. I wanted gold, but this silver is also special. I worked hard during four years to win my first global medal. I had to stop training after my injury in Europe. I am very grateful for this,” said Diago, who became the first Cuban female athlete to win an 800m global junior medal.


Her fast times and the global medal earned a spot on Team Americas for the IAAF Continental Cup in Marrakech.


“It is a reward for what I have accomplished this year. It has been a long season for me. It is just one race and I will give it all,” said Diago, who wants to follow two countrywomen: Ana Fidelia Quirot and Zulia Calatayud, winners of this global event in 1989 and 2006, respectively.

Diago is also eying the gold medal at the Central American and Caribbean Games in Veracruz, Mexico, 23-30 November.

Her coach Frank Ayala provides an insight into her rapid progress.

“Her aerobic and anaerobic capacities are excellent. The way she moves on the track is comparable to the Kenyans and Savinova. She has a great ability to analyse races and stayed focused. She gives it all in training,” he said.

Ayala believes she has to continue working on her coordination and “she is sometimes overconfident. She may think she has the situation under control and it may not be the case.”

In her free time, Sahily loves reading, watching TV and listening to romantic music. Very close to her family, she goes back home almost every weekend and stays connected to her mom, who is currently working in Venezuela. In September, she is starting the final year of a 2-year technical program to become Physical Education teacher.

In Cuba, she sees two-time former world champion and two-time Olympic medallist Ana Fidelia Quirot as her idol. “I met her in 2011 and she gave me a lot of advice and encouragement to keep working hard and aim high in my athletic career.”


Personal Bests

400m- 53.87 (2014)

500m- 1:07.9 (2014)

600m- 1:26.1 (2013)

800m- 1:57.74 (2014) AJR

1000m- 2:37.5 (2014)

Yearly Progression


2011-55.47; 2012-54.20; 2013-55.22; 2014-53.87


2010- 2:12.4; 2011-2:04.09; 2012-2:00.9h; 2013-2:01.30; 2014-1:57.74 AJR


Career Highlights



National Championships




World Youth Championships (Lille)




National Championships (400m)




Central American and Caribbean Junior Championships (San Salvador) (400m)




National Championships




National Junior Championships (400m)




National Junior Championships




Pan American Junior Championships (Medellin)




National Championships (400m)




National Championships




National Championships (La Habana)




IAAF World Junior Championships (Eugene)



Prepared by Javier Clavelo for the IAAF ‘Focus on Athletes’ project. © IAAF 2014