Yordan L. O'Farrill of Cuba wins the Men's 110m Hurdles on the day three of the 14th IAAF World Junior Championships in Barcelona 2012 (Getty Images) © Copyright
General News 12 July 2012 – Barcelona

O'Farrill set to inherit Robles' role as the Cuban hurdling king

BarcelonaCuban athletics icon Alberto Juantorena, now a member of the IAAF Council and a recent inductee into the IAAF Hall of Fame, was one of the first people to greet the men's 110m Hurdles winner Yordan O'Farrill as he left the track.

The 1976 Olympic Games 400m and 800m champion told the awaiting media. "One day we will have to replace Dayron Robles and I think this could be the man to do it."

Robles in recent months has gone on record saying that despite being just 25, persistent injuries mean that he might yet consider retiring in the near future and maybe after this summer's Olympics.

However, on Thursday night as dusk descended over the Montjuic Olympic Stadium, O'Farrill certainly looked like a younger version of the World record holder in his glory days as he sped smoothly over the 10 barriers to a Championship record and Cuban junior record of 13.18 to move up to third on the all-time list for the event.

Robles redux

His victory also made Cuba the most successful nation ever in the event at the World Junior Championships with four gold medals to the Caribbean nation's name.

"Dayron Robles is my idol and I'm training with him all the time, he is giving me a lot of advice. He's been a big help to me on many occasions and at many moments. After this personal best I am sure that sometime soon I can break the World Junior record. This race was nearly perfect but like always there are little things that can be improved upon," he commented.

Sadly, O'Farrill immediately contradicted himself and said that this was his last race of the season and having already turned 19 in February, it means he will not get another chance at the record.

However, perhaps after Thursday's run he will have a change-of-heart and go back to his blocks again this summer.

The impression that one was looking at a younger version of Robles was enhanced, not just by the knowledge that he was coached by Santiago Antúnez, the mentor to the great hurdler, but also because the teenager sported a strong pair of glasses and diamond studs in his ears.

"As far as the glasses are concerned, I've got some problems with my eyes (in similar fashion to Robles, who has vision problems), and the studs, well, I like them," he added, denying any suggestions that he was copying the style of Robles in more than hurdling technique.

Subjective comparisons between Robles and the young pretender to his throne, both on a national and potentially a global level, are easy with regards to their style - both over the hurdles and sartorially.

Cautious comparisons

However, it is a little bit more difficult to be objective in absolute track terms as Robles never ran over the 99 centimetre hurdles now used by juniors, which were first used at the 2006 World Junior Championships.

In one respect though, O'Farrill is ahead of the curve drawn by his compatriot: Robles had to settle for a silver medal at the 2004 World Junior Championships when he was beaten to the line by the United States' Aries Merritt.

O'Farrill also stands out for one other reason that has nothing to do with his athletics achievements in Barcelona; it's certain that there are not many people with his name in the Havana phone book.

If you were wondering about the less-than-Hispanic family name of O'Farrill, he provided the answer to the question about his origins.

Irish ancestors

"My grandfather on my father's side was Irish. I guess I've got some long lost relatives in Ireland and one day I might go and look for them but for the moment, I'd be happy if they wanted to come to Cuba."

As he is only one-eighth Irish, O'Farrill may or may not be familiar with a bit of mythology from the Emerald Isle that suggests if you catch one of those green clad dwarves from the Emerald Isle called leprechauns, then they have to grant you three wishes.

However, he must have quietly captured a stray one looking for the sun on the Mediterranean coast as his three wishes of firstly, running a national record; secondly, running a Championship record; and thirdly, doing better than Robles, all came true.

Phil Minshull for the IAAF