San Salvador, El SalvadorMexico’s IAAF Golden League Jackpot winner, Ana Guevara, easily qualified for the 400m final at the 19th Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games in San Salvador yesterday.
Guevara, 25, did not even have to sweat to win (53.45) her semi-final heat on Sunday in Flor Blanca Stadium and qualified for today's final. The Dominican Republic's Clara Laura Hernandez (54.53) and Venezuela's Angela Alfonso (55.47) never challenged the world’s best female 400 metre runner of the season.
Significantly for Guevara, she was performing on the same track where she obtained her first international results, when claiming the silver medals at 800m and 4x400m at the Central American and Caribbean Junior Championships in 1996.
A senior gold medal at the world’s oldest regional Games is still missing in her already successful career, as four years ago in Maracaibo, she finished second in both the 400m and 800m.
The 2002 IAAF World Race Walking Cup bronze medallist Alejandro Lopez, won the first final of the Games taking the 20km walk title in 1:26:32. Victoria Palacios, who was tenth in the 2001 Edmonton World Championships, crossed the finish line in the women’s walk to take gold with a 1:36:16 effort.
Elsewhere, Mexico's Pablo Olmedo won the men’s 10,000m in a Games record of 28:36.67.
The opening day of athletics was significantly special for Dominic Johnson of St. Lucia, who gave his small island their first ever title in the 76-year history of the Games. The 27-year old 5.70m Olympic pole vaulter cleared 5.41m on his first attempt at the height to erase Cuban Angel Garcia's 5.40m standard, set in Mexico City (1990). Johnson then failed three times over 5.50m.
The athletics event will continue until Saturday December 7, when the Games will be officially closed.
Elsewhere in the region, due to the withdrawal of the Cuban team from the CAC Games - the Cubans claimed they did not receive security guarantees for their delegation - there was an array of good performances at the Cuban National Olympiad in Havana.
Sonia Bisset upset women’s javelin World record holder and World Champion Osleidys Menendez.
Menendez, 23, who resumed training only 11 days ago after a long season which included a World Cup title in Madrid and a win at the IAAF Grand Prix Final in Paris, was evidently very far from her best form in Havana.
The Cuban who was also Sydney Olympic bronze medallist, was placed fourth after the fourth round with a 57.52m effort from only a five step run-up, but in the next round she threw the spear to 60.97m, which was enough to secure second place behind Sonia Bisset.
Bisset, the 2001 World Championship bronze medallist, controlled the event from the very beginning, with four throws over 61 metres, including a 62.60m effort in the fifth round.
“I made a great effort and I could not expect better results considering my short period of training. I just wanted to support the Games and this result makes me feel confident for next season", said Menendez. "Now I have to continue correcting some technical details and prepare well to be able to defend my world title in Paris", she added.
This and another recent win in Havana have rewarded Bisset's perseverance and hard work, after a season plagued with injuries. "I am not fully recovered, but it's nice to end the year with good results against some of the best athletes of the world", she stated, three weeks after throwing 65.52m at the Barrientos Memorial in Havana, to move to third place on the 2002 World performance list.
Edmonton finalist Xiomara Rivero grabbed the bronze medal with 58.34m.
With World and Olympic champion Ivan Pedroso absent, Luis Meliz with a leap of 8.23m, defeated former World Junior bronze medallist Yoelmis Pacheco in a good long jump fight, in front of a 3000 crowd of spectators.
Pacheco, 20, led with a 7.93m leap in the second round, but Meliz, after two fouls, replied with 8.05m in the third round. Pacheco equalled that mark in the fourth round, but Luis Meliz landed at 8.23. After fouled fifth attempts, Pacheco and Meliz jumped 8.14m and Meliz 8.17m respectively, in the final round.
"The rivalry and the support of the public led us to produce good results. A muscle injury in the winter almost jeopardized my whole season, but the end was more satisfying", said the 23-year old Meliz, who looks forward to returning to the form of his best season, in 2000, when he jumped 8.43m.
World hammer champion Yipsi Moreno, with only five weeks training, won her event in Havana with 70.12m, and backed that up with three attempts over 69 metres.
"These results show I am ready to have a better 2003 season, especially maintaining consistency over 70m", explained a happy Moreno, who was second at this year’s IAAF World Cup in Madrid.
Elsewhere, Yacnier Luis took the men's 400m hurdles with 49.22, while in the women’s sprints, Virgen Benavides achieved a 100-200m double by clocking 11.25 and a hand timed 22.3, which could have easily beaten Liliana Allen's 22.72 Cuban record. She also led her 4x100m relay team to win in 43.34 seconds.
Daimi Pernia, the 1999 World 400m hurdles champion, also posted double wins in her main event (56.82) and by closing out the winning 4x400m with her team’s 3:34.11.
There were also two victories for 20-year-old Yerman Lopez (400-4x400), Freddy Mayola (100-4x100) and Adriana Munoz (800-1500).
Olympic 110m Hurdles champion Anier Garcia sat out of the Games due to minor backache, while Yoel Hernandez, fourth over the sprint barriers in Edmonton, finished a modest eighth in the flat 200 metres, which left Carlos Patterson in a 13.36 second PB to win the high hurdles.
Javier Clavelo Robinson for the IAAF
The Cuban National Games champions are as follows:
100m: 10.25 Freddy Mayola
200m: 20.85 Alianny Echevarria
400m: 45.42 Yerman Lopez
1500m: 3:49.81 Maurel Surel
Marathon: 2:15:02.13 Aguelmis Rojas (marathon debut)
110 H: 13.36 Carlos Patterson
400 H: 49.22 Yacnier Luis
HJ: 2.24 Yuniel Carrillo
PV: 5.00 Frank Cespedes
LJ: 8.23 Luis F. Meliz
TJ: 16.89 Aliacer Urrutia
SP: 19.63 Alexis Paumier
DT: 64.48 Loy M. Martinez
HT: 69.73 Iosvany Suarez
JT: 79.67 Isbel Luaces
20km W: 1:23:57 Jorge L. Pino
4x100m: 39.58 Cuba
4x400m: 3:05.09 Cuba
100m: 11.25 Virgen Benavides
200m: 22.3 Virgen Benavides
400m: 53.80 Lisvania Grenot
800: 2:02.82Adriana Munoz
1500m: 4:16.71 Adriana Munoz
5000m: 16:37.27 Yudelkis Martinez
10,000m: 34:44.10 Yudelkis Martinez
Marathon: 2:38:09.64 Emperatriz Wilson
100 H: 13.29 Dainesky Perez
400 H: 56.82 Daimi Pernia
HJ: 1.81 Yanisleidis Fernandez
PV: 3.75 Katiuska Perez
LJ: 6.31 Yusleidis Limonta
TJ: 13.64 Olga L. Cepero
SP: 18.38 Yumileidi Cumba
DT: 58.86 Ana E. Fernandez
HT: 70.12 Yipsi Moreno
JT: 62.60 Sonia Bisset
20km W: 1:37:30 Yanelis Sanchez
4x100m: 43.34 Cuba
4x400m: 3:34.11 Cuba
Note: The men's 800, 5000 and 10,000 events were not