|High Jump||1.87||Barquisimeto||06 APR 2013|
|Long Jump||6.57||0.0||Barinas||17 APR 2015|
|Triple Jump||15.02||-0.4||Madrid (Moratalaz)||23 JUN 2016|
|Triple Jump||14.69||Madrid (CSD)||23 JAN 2016|
|2014||1.82||San Felipe||01 FEB|
|2016||15.02||-0.4||Madrid (Moratalaz)||23 JUN|
|2015||14.20||+2.0||Toronto (CIBC)||21 JUL|
|2016||14.69||Madrid (CSD)||23 JAN|
|IAAF World Junior Championships 2014||11||5.81||-0.3||Eugene (Hayward Field), OR||23 JUL 2014|
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Created 15 March 2016
Yulimar Del Valle ROJAS RODRÍGUEZ (Triple Jump/Long Jump/High Jump)
Born in Caracas 21 October 1995
Coach: Iván Pedroso
Venezuela’s first Olympic medal in any sport was won in the triple jump, when 20-year old Arnoldo Devonish took bronze at the 1952 Games in Helsinki. In a confirmation of history’s cyclical nature, another 20-year old, Yulimar Rojas, hopes to become Venezuela’s next Olympic medallist, also in the triple jump.
Yulimar was born in Caracas but was raised and nurtured her athletic talent in the eastern state of Anzoátegui, on the shores of the Caribbean Sea. The first sport she practised, at the age of 14, was volleyball. A tall girl, she was attracted by the possibility to take advantage of her height and the success of the Venezuelan women’s national team, which had qualified to the 2008 Olympic Games a couple years before.
“I was excited with their qualification, as I admired that team. I did some tryouts for the National School Games, but there were no volleyball coaches at that moment, so it was athletics coaches took notice of me. They were excited when they saw me, staying that I was an unpolished diamond,” she recalled.
Her beginnings in the sport were not easy. Yulimar and her family lived in what is known in Venezuela as “ranchito,” a shanty house made of bricks and zinc roof commonly found in many poor neighbourhoods around the country. “It was crumbling. When it rained, we would get wet inside,” she recalled.
The very first time she competed in an athletics event it was the shot put. She won it, but never tried it again. It was in the high jump – an event where she still holds the national record – that she was first named to the national team, but could not join the squad due to her father’s reluctance.
Under Venezuelan law, a minor cannot leave the country without the authorisation of both parents, but her father repeatedly refused to give his content. “I wanted him to feel proud of me and support me, but he refused to sign the authorisation times and I missed several (international) events.”
But a parental figure would be very much present in the future. Her stepfather supported her all along and her first coach, Jesús Velásquez, stills follows her career closely even though Yulimar does not train with him anymore.
Yulimar first enjoyed international success when winning the high jump at the 2011 South American U20 Championships in Medellín, Colombia, with 1.78m while still an U18 athlete.
The following year, competing in her natural age category, she suffered the disappointment of finishing out of the podium in fourth at the South American U18 Championships Mendoza, Argentina, clearing only 1.68m. However, she ended the season on a high note when taking bronze at the South American U23 Championships in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
2013 was the year of her career breakthrough. She started by setting two national U20 records on the same day during a local meet in Barquisimeto, clearing 1.87m in the high jump and landing at 6.17m in the long jump, an event she started to take more seriously from the start of the new Olympic cycle.. Her high jump mark still stands as a South American U20 record.
That year she also earned the high jump silver medal that at the Pan American U20 Championships in Cali, Colombia with the same height (1.76m) as winner Danellys Dutil of Cuba. She claimed silver at the Bolivarian Games in Trujillo, again with 1.76m, behind Panama’s Kashani Ríos. She also surprised many with her speed, winning the 100m silver for Anzoátegui at the National Junior Games with 11.94.
In 2014, she tried the triple jump for the first time. In her debut, she jumped 13.57m, and rapidly equalled the national record held by another athlete from Anzoátegui, Jennifer Arveláez, since 2000.
“I started to feel attracted by the triple jump. I felt comfortably doing it, but my coach was not sure about changing events. I spoke to him and managed to convince him to allow me to try the triple in a small meet, where there would be nothing at stake. I had a feeling I could jump well, but did not expect to jump that far. After that I became more and more motivated by the triple jump.”
“When we saw her competing in the triple jump, we realised she had a great potential,” stated Wilfredy León, president of the Venezuelan Athletics Federation. “She did not do a proper step, she would simply stretch her leg. We knew that when she learned to do it, she would be able to jump far.”
It was a very successful year for Yulimar, who won the high jump gold at the South American Games in Chile with 1.79m, taking revenge from her defeat to Panama’s Rios at the Bolivarian Games a year earlier.
“Winning my first gold medal at the South American Games was one my best experiences. I trained hard and was focused on improving my performance from the Pan American U20 Championships,” she commented.
That was one of the last times she competed in the high jump as her focus changed to the horizontal jumps. She competed in both the long and triple jumps at the World U20 Championships in Eugene, Oregon. She qualified to the long jump final in 10th place with a 6.05m leap, but felt some pressure in the final and finished 11th with 5.81m. In the triple jump, she finished 17th with 12.99m.
Less than a month later, she enjoyed her first international success in the horizontal jumps when she won the Pan American Festival in Mexico City. She landed at 6.53m, a mark that could not be validated as a national record due to the 2.1 m/s tail wind reading.
More good news ensured. The family was given better housing in recognition of her athletic achievements, and her younger sister Yerilda Zapata qualified for the 2014 Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, where she competed in the discus throw.
Yulimar was Venezuela’s leading athlete at the South American U23 Championships in Uruguay, taking both the long jump (6.36m) and triple jump (13.35m) gold medals. This performance earned her the honour of being selected Venezuela’s flag bearer for the Central American and Caribbean Games in Veracruz, Mexico.
“I was very proud because they recognised my results. It meant they followed all my accomplishments.”
However, her results were not as good as expected in Mexico, where was finished fourth in both events: 6.24m in the long jump and 13.54m in the triple.
The following year started with an impressive series of records. Munich Tovar’s 6.49m national mark was short-lived as Yulimar landed at 6.57m at the National Senior Championships. In the same competition, she surprisingly broke the national triple jump record and met the IAAF standard for the 2015 World Championships with 14.17m.
However, a long season of competitions that included the Barrientos Memorial, the South American Championships and the Pan American Games took its toll on her legs and she opted out of the World Championships.
“I came back from Toronto with a lot of pain in my joints. I did everything to try to recover on time, but it was not possible. Watching the World Championships on TV I realized I could be among the world’s best. Except for the top six or seven women, all other jumps were at my level. I started to believe that I could one day become world champion.”
And she was proved right later that year, when she took the silver medal at the World Military Games in South Korea with 13.82m, behind Russia’s 2014 World indoor champion Ekaterina Koneva.
Very soon, Yulimar would pave her own way to continue progressing in the sport when she contacted Cuba’s nine-time long jump World champion, Ivan Pedroso.
“One day his name was suggested to be added as a Facebook friend. I dared to contact him and told him how much I admired him and that I dreamed of training with him. He said he was following my career and believed I had a great talent,” she recalled.
The athlete-coach relationship was sealed in November 2015, when Yulimar travelled to Spain to train under Pedroso’s watch.
“We knew that the only way to fulfill her potential would be for her to train outside the country, with more competitions and under the guidance of a man like Pedroso,” stated Wilfredy León. “The fact that she accepted to join Pedroso just before Christmas, an important festive season for many families, showed that she was really focused on her career.”
Pedroso did not take long to realise what a rough diamond had fallen into his hands. “Yuli is achieving all the goals I have set out as a coach. We are now focusing on her speed, run-up and take-off. She has not limits. When she is focused in a competition, she can be a very dangerous rival and excel all expectations,” commented Pedroso.
Pedroso’s words were proven right during Yulimar’s second competition in 2016, at the Trofeo Invierno del Consejo Superior de Deportes de España in Madrid, where she set a national and South American indoor record of 14.69m, also the best jump in the world this year.
“I was surprised when I achieved that record. During the training sessions, I felt stronger, more confident and I knew good things may come, that I just needed to be patient and I can be very patient. In my previous competition I had used a nine step run-up and jumped 13.97m. But on that day, Ivan agreed that I use a longerl run-up, 11 steps. It was a wonderful day, but for me that was a not a goal, it was just the beginning. The best is yet to come.”
The girl whose sleep had often been disrupted by the leaking rain in her once crumbling house has become the revelation of the women’s triple jump. The owner of the best three jumps in 2016, Yulimar wants to continue living her dream.
Personal Bests Outdoor
100m – 11.94 (2013)
80m Hurdles (0.76 cm) – 12.52 (2010)
100m Hurdles – 15.69 (2011)
100 hurdles (0.76cm) – 14.81 (2012)
High Jump- 1.87 NJR (2013
Long Jump- 6.57 NR (2015)
Triple Jump- 14.20 (14.37w) (2015)
Personal Bests Indoor
Triple Jump- 14.69 NR, AR (2016)
High Jump: 2010-1.63; 2011-1.81; 2012-1.75; 2013-1.87 NJR; 2014-1.82; 2015-1.80
Long Jump: 2010-5.42; 2011-5.57; 2012-5.93; 2013-6.23 NJR; 2014-6.48 NJR (6.53w); 2015-6.57 NR
Triple Jump: 2014-13.65 NJR; 2015-14.20 (14.37w); 2016-14.69 NR, AR (indoor)
2011 2nd IV Alba Sports Games, Barquisimeto (high jump) 1.70
2011 1st South American Junior Championship, Medellín (high jump) 1.78
2012 6th Ibero-American Championship, Barquisimeto (high jump) 1.75
2012 1st Pan American School Games, Ciudad de Guatemala (high jump) 1.73
2012 3rd South American U-23 Championship, Sao Paulo (high jump) 1.73
2012 4th South American Youth Championship, Mendoza (high jump) 1.68
2013 5th South American Championship, Cartagena (high jump) 1.73
2013 5th South American Championship, Cartagena (long jump) 6.18
2013 2nd Pan American Junior Championship, Medellin (high jump) 1.76 A
2013 4th Pan American Junior Championship, Medellin (4x100) 46.70
2013 2nd Bolivarian Games, Trujillo (high jump) 1.76
2013 6th Bolivarian Games, Trujillo (long jump) 5.87
2014 1st South American Games, Santiago (high jump) 1.79
2014 11th World U20 Championship, Eugene (long jump) 5.81 (6.05q)
2014 17th World U20 Championship, Eugene (triple jump) 12.99
2014 1st Pan American Sports Festival, México (long jump) 6,53w A
2014 1st South American U23 Championship, Montevideo (long jump) 6,36
2014 1st South Americana U23 Championship, Montevideo (triple jump) 13.35
2014 4th Central American and Caribbean Games, Veracruz (long jump) 6.24 A
2014 4th Central American and Caribbean Games, Veracruz (triple jump) 13.54 A
2015 1st South American Championship, Lima (triple jump) 14.14
2015 4th South American Championship, Lima (long jump) 6.20
2015 11th Pan American Games, Toronto (long jump) 6.36
2015 4th Pan American Games, Toronto (triple jump) 14.37w
2015 4th CISM World Games, Mungyeong (high jump) 1.80
2015 2nd CISM World Games, Mungyeong (triple jump) 13.82
Prepared by Eumar Esaa for the IAAF “Focus on Athletes” project. Copyright IAAF 2016