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Lazaro Borges of Cuba celebrates during the men's pole vault final (Getty Images) © Copyright
General News Havana, Cuba

After a breakthrough 2011, Borges dreams higher in 2012

After improving his personal best by 20cm and clearing 5.90m to win a surprise World silver in Daegu, Lázaro Borges wants to keep dreaming for higher goals in this Olympic year.

The 25-year old Cuban makes his indoor career debut this Sunday at the Russian Winter Moscow, followed by other three outings in Donesk, Bydgoszcz and Germany before the World Indoor Championships in Istanbul.

In the Polish city, he is expected to meet World champion Pawel Wojciechowski.

“Expectations are high coming to my first indoor experience. I want to equal or come close to my personal best (5.90m) and be among the top three at the World Championships (in Istanbul)," said Borges, who travelled to Europe with his coach Ruben Camino.

Daegu fifth placer and Pan American Games gold medallist Yarisley Silva and Dailis Caballero, coached by Alexander Nava, will also make their first indoor appearances this winter.

“The preparation for the tour has gone well. Perhaps, the only technical aspect to improve on would be to shorten the run-up in an indoor environment. This is a new experience for me. I want to do it well and enjoy it,” he added.

Borges admitted a certain disadvantage with the European athletes as “they always train indoors”, but he aims at a similar result like Daegu.

“If I clear 5.90, I would be among the best and the Indoor Worlds would give me an indication on how things could unfold at the London Olympics."

A Pole Vaulter by chance

An ordinary Cuban kid, Lázaro Borges Reid took up Pole Vault by chance. The middle son of a cigar rolling couple, he was introduced to this highly technical discipline by his older cousin and then national record holder Ángel García, who recruited the then-nine grader to train at the José Martí Sports School (EIDE) in Eastern Havana.

“He spoke to my mom and suggested I could practise Pole Vault. My mom told me I had two choices: to be on the street or opt for sports. I joined the EIDE without knowing what Pole Vault was,” he recalled.

As a kid, he initially took it lightly but was then motivated by the possibility of attending the National School Games like many of his classmates.

In 2004, he cleared 4.80m and joined the national junior team under the guidance of Luis Miranda. Still a junior, he enjoyed his first international success when winning the gold medal at the Central American and Caribbean Championships in Nassau in July 2005.

Things started to pick up when he started training with former national record holder Ruben Camino in 2007. “Our relation goes beyond an athlete-coach rapport. He is like a father for me. He is with me in the good and bad times. We have clicked well and we get along very well.”

Borges improved the national record to 5.70m and earned a place on the Cuban team for the 2008 Olympics, but did not clear any height in Beijing. He renewed his CAC title and added the Iberoamerican crown in 2010, before his magic 2011.

With 11 competitions at 5.60m or higher, Borges seized every opportunity given to him, from his Diamond League debut in Doha, a tour in Brazil and later his first European campaign.

In Europe, he found a second home in the Spanish city of Pamplona. “It would have been impossible to achieve this without their support during a training camp there. They provided me with the Poles to reach higher goals, especially the195lb 14.2 one I used to clear 5.75, 5.85 and 5.90 in Daegu. I will always be grateful to them.”

The Cuban exploit in the Pole Vault was confirmed with Yarisley Silva’s fifth place and an area record of 4.70m. Two months later, both became the first Cubans ever to win the Pan American Games gold in their event and they did in a good fashion by setting new Games records (5.80m and 4.75m).

Before departing for Europe and after a training session at Havana’s Estadio Panamericano, Borges shared his pathway to success.

“I believed I blazed the trail in my family when it comes to sports. My mom always taught me to be successful in life. This is the way I found to enjoy success.  I may not have the best build for a Pole Vaulter, but I have overcome that with a lot of dedication and willingness to travel the world as one of the best in my discipline.”

Borges believes one has to have a bit of luck in sports. “You may be in good shape, but may not necessarily achieve a good result. It took me a while, but patience and hard work are starting to pay off.”

Despite success and now being more well know at home, “I remain the same person, both inside and outside the track, with my friends.”

On his family, Borges has 7-year old and an older sister. “I am in the middle. My younger sister is very active, but I am not sure she would like to practice sports. My family has always been very supportive of all decisions I have made. My grandfather Winston Reid, has shared his experiences with me.  I owe everything I am as an athlete to him, my mother and grandma.”

He also has role models to look up to. “My idols are Sergey Bubka and currently Steve Hooker. Yoandri Betanzos is my current reference in Cuban athletics. He is very consistent and has always remained humble. He is a gentleman.”

On the track, Borges likes to try other sports like football, volleyball, basketball. “I love meat. I am allergic to seafood, but I love salads and fruits. I love hip-hop, Cuban rap and reggaeton and salsa ballads, different kinds,” said the young athlete, who earned his Physical Education degree in December 2010.

Borges also shared how proud he is to have been born and represent Cuba. “Those four letters weigh heavily on my vest. When people see our flag and the name of our country, people show an incredible amount of respect.”

The six-meter barrier and the London Olympics are his bigger goals. “Reaching 6 metres before seemed an unattainable dream. It is now a realistic goal and I would be honoured to join such an exclusive club.”

On the Olympics, "these will be my second Games. I just want to get there in good shape and fight with the world’s best.”

Borges agrees 2011 marked a turning point in his career. “From now on things are different. Everyone knows three’s a tiny Cuban called Lázaro Borges, who could surprise the top guys in the major events. My mentality has not charged and will attend events with nothing to lose and a lot to win, not only in athletics, but also in culture and experience. I love what I do and I can do it well,” he concluded.

Javier Clavelo Robinson for the IAAF