Yipsi Moreno of Cuba celebrates winning the hammer throw (Getty Images) © Copyright
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Moreno improves Area record to 75.18 in Cuban National Olympics

HavanaCuba's twotime World champion Yipsi Moreno improved her Area Hammer record with a massive 75.18 throw to produce the most notable performance during the three days of competition of the athletics tournament at the 2nd National Cuban Olympics, which also serves as the Cuban National Championships.

Moreno opened her series with her best result and as soon as the mark was shown on the board she started to jump in clear sign of joy. She continued with 73.05, foul, 73.06, 72.24 and another foul. She thus erased her own Area record of 75.14, set in Savona, Italy, last 17 July 2003 and her competition standard of 70.12 from November 2002.

"I am really happy today. I do not want to say that I already achieved what I wanted this season. The mark shows training is going well and we will continue to prepare towards the Olympic Games. It is a great feeling to break the record at home, in front of my own people. I know what I am capable of doing," said a smiling Moreno, who could hardly control her euphoria.

"I am also satisfied with my consistency, but I should go progressively in my series. It is good to win with a first throw, but you never know what could happen," she added.

The 23-year old from Camaguey has bettered the Area record more than a dozen times since 1999. Moreno ended her first training stage towards Athens with a 74.43 best. She was also over 73 meters in her three other outings (73.70, 73.65 and 73.24). She resumed training at the end of March after a 10-day break and has only been practising for four weeks.

Assessing the competition, her coach Eladio Hernandez stated that "it was an unexpected result. Her talent is unquestionable, but we are at the time when nothing special has been made to produce such throw. It shows once again her capacity and her willingness. She deserves the best as an athlete and as a coach I work to achieve the best possible results."

"She has simply kept the fine form she gained in the first stage (November-March). She was more relaxed and her skills help her to master the event. This result boosts her confidence and it is just the beginning. If she continues this way, we will bring more joy to our people," he added.

The best Cuban sportswoman of 2003 expects to make her international season debut during the IAAF Grand Prix in Osaka, on 8 May. Eladio Hernandez aims to qualify three women for the Olympic final.

Her training partners Yunaika Crawford (67.40), injured in a finger of her right arm, and Aldenay Vasallo (64.42) were distant second and third, respectively. Mexico's 2002 Central American and Caribbean Games silver medallist Violeta Guzman improved her national standard from 62.76 to 64.21 to finish fourth.

"I just met the B Olympic standard and I hope to be included in the Mexican team for Athens. Competing with the Cubans has been a great incentive and I hope to keep improving this season," said Guzman. Her brother Guillermo also holds the Mexican hammer standard (71.46) since 1992.

Disappointing Pedroso jumps 7.38

However, nine-time World and Olympic champion Ivan Pedroso was far from his best form and finished a disappointing fourth in the Long Jump final with a poor 7.38. He is back to training after a short break following his eighth place at the World Indoor Champs in Budapest.

"He is now in general preparation and he only wanted to have the competitive feeling and jump in Cuba," said his coach Milan Matos. His last appearance on home soil was in July 2000. Today, he only jumped in the first four founds. 2000 World Junior silver medallist Yoelmis Pacheco was the winner with his only valid leap (7.83) in her first attempt.

Cumba improves on meeting record

Also in the infield, 2004 Budapest World Indoor bronze medallist Yumileidi Cumba improved her own competition record to 18.95 to clinch the Shot Put title, followed by another Budapest finalist, Misleydis González (18.29) and Maylin Vargas (17.06).

With the attendance of athletes from nine countries, the 2nd National Olympics also provided good results for Honduras, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador and Costa Rica.
Venezuela, the foreign nation with the largest team, grabbed the gold medal in the men's 4x400m relay team. Luis Luna, Jonathan Palma, Jose Acevedo and South American champion William Hernandez formed the squad who clocked 3:08.55, ahead of Cuba (3:08.67). Venezuela aims to be in the top 16 to qualify for the Olympics.

In the previous days, South American champions Ricardo Diez grabbed silver in the Pole Vault (4.80) and Yoger Medina claimed bronze in the Shot Put (18.09), as well as Manuel Gonzalez, second in the 800m (1:49.90) and third in the 1.500m (3:49.02).

Costa Rica won two medals on Sunday, thanks to Francisco Gomez, second in the 3000m Steeplechase (8:48 and Eugenia Allen, third in the 5000m (17:06.61). Both set new national standards in their respective disciplines.

Magda M, Castillo, a Honduran student at the International Physical Education and Sports School in Havana, also broke national records in the 1500m (4:38.77) and 5000m (17:58.96).

Colombia's Bertha Sanchez, bronze medallist at the 2003 Pan American Games in Santo Domingo, was second in the 5000m (17:05.09), in a close battle with Cuban national record holder Yudelkis Martinez (17:03.76).

The best performance from a foreign athlete came from Ecuador's South American cross country champion Byron Piedra, who won the 800 and1500 meters in his season debut, setting national records in both events. The 21-year old from Cuenca dominated the longer distance on Friday with 3:40.97, after going for a solo run from the 500-metre mark. On Saturday, he took the lead after 500m and held off his fast finishing rivals to cross the finish line first in 1:48.86.

Overall, a total of 22 competition records were set during three days of competition. The best Cuban athletes will continue their preparation and are expected to start their European tour in late May.

The 2nd Cuban National Olympics will be held until April 30, with the attendance of over 3000 athletes from 30 countries in 38 official and eight exhibition sports.

Winners, all Cubans, except when specified
Men
100m: Juan A. Pita 10.54
200m: Alexander Reyes 21.39
400m: Glauder Garzón 47.06
800m: Byron Piedra (ECU) 1:48.86 CR-NR
1500m: Byron Piedra (ECU) 3:40.97 CR-NR
5000m: Maury S. Castillo 14:29.79 CR
3000m ST: Yandri Chivas 8:48.43
110m H: Yuniel Hernández 13.71 CR
400m H: Sergio Hierrezuelo 49.57
HJ: Yunier Carrillo 2.23
PV: Frank Céspedes 5.00m =CR
LJ: Yoelmis Pacheco 7.83 (+1.7)
TJ: Yoandri Betanzos 17.13w (2.3 m/s) 17.03 (1.3 m/s)
    2) Osniel Tosca 17.04 (1.3 m/s) CR
SP: Alexis Paumier 19.10
DT: Frank Casañas 63.47
HT: Yosbel Montes 70.31 CR
JT: Guillermo Martínez 81.36 CR
Decathlon: Alberto Juantorena Jr. 7769 CR
Marathon: Aguelmis Rojas 2:14:15 CR
4x100m: Cuba A  40.29
4x400m: Venezuela  3:08.55

Women
100m: Misleydis Lazo 11.56
200m: Roxana Díaz 23.66
400m: Lisbania Grenot 51.70 CR
800m: Yanelis Lara 2:05.56
1500m: Adriana Muñoz 4:16.97
5000m: Yudelkis Martinez 17:03.76
100m H: Anay Tejeda 13.16 CR
400m H: Yaniuska Pérez 58.77
HJ: Yarianny Arguelles 1.87 CR
PV: Yarisley Silva 3.80 CR
LJ: Yargelis Savigne 6.41 CR
TJ: Mabel Gay 13.79 CR
SP: Yumileidi Cumba 18.95 CR
DT: Yania Ferrales 60.91 CR
HT: Yipsi Moreno 75.18 CR
JT: Osleidys Menendez 65.85 CR
Heptathlon: Yudelis Limonta 5593 CR
Marathon: Mariela González 2:36.51 CR
20km walk: Yarelis Sánchez 1:40:33
4x100m: Cuba A 43.27
4x400m: Cuba A 3:33.32
CR-Championship Record
NR-National Record