viernes, 20 de julio de 2012

The Amazing Ana Peleteiro & the Big Example of a small Athletic Club

"Comparing long and triple jump, which of those athletic disciplines
 do you like more and why?
Triple jump, because it is a very difficult event and I like challenges." (1)

Ana Peleteiro and her coach Abelardo Moure

In spite of being held in front of an almost empty stadium, the 14th World Junior championships in Barcelona were one of the most spectacular and emotive track and field contests we can remember, with abundance of talent and impressive marks. Only two athletes, Angelica Bengtsson and Jacko Gill, got to defend their titles from Moncton, increasing their resume to five gold medals for the Swede and three for the New Zealander in youth and junior major competitions. For both the shot putter and pole vaulter it was their last chance to shine among the teens, before getting ready to destroy the existing senior records. On the other hand, Antonique Strachan from the Bahamas showed why she was awarded the distinction of best athlete of the last two editions of the Carifta Games, completing a sensational double victory at the 100m and 200m events with very fast clockings of 11.20 and 22.52. Strachan however did not stand as the only sprint standout in Barcelona as Adam Gemili, Ashley Spencer and Luguelín Santos all recorded world-class times. Ethiopia won its eternal duel against Kenya in the longest races, thanks to Muktar Edris, Yigrem Demelash and Buze Diriba. Nevertheless, Kenya showed its usual mastery of the steeplechase event, especially in the men’s category, where Conseslus Kipruto broke the tape in 8:06.10. All Edris, Demelash and Diriba may at last claim a valid succession for long standing nation leaders Kenenisa Bekele, Tirunesh Bekele and Meseret Defar, in the same way Kipruto might soon overcome Kenyan steeplechase classics Ezekiel Kemboi, Brimin Kipruto and Paul Kipsiele Koech. London-bound Faith Kipyegon, added up the junior crown to the youth one she achieved last year in Lille at the 1500m distance, yet both Kenyan and Ethiopian men were well beaten at the middle distance events by Burundian Nijel Amos and Qatari Hamza Driouch, who made a clear statement for the upcoming Olympic Games.
The championships also proved once more the excellent Cuban work at grassroots levels. The Caribbean country won no less than three gold medals at their pet events: triple jump (Pedro Pichardo), heptathlon (Yorgelis Rodríguez) and 110m hurdles (Yordan Luis O’Farrill). Especially intriguing was the latter, looking like with his competitive ways and optical lenses a Dayron Robles’ clone. Traditional powerhouses fared well in the contest but also new nations are starting to challenge their supremacy. A good example is race walking where, with the likes of Eider Arévalo and Sandra Arenas, Colombia is displacing Mexico at area level and they dare to face even the invincible members of the Saransk school. The world junior champs showed the increasing globalisation of the sport with no less than 43 different flags being present at the podium. For instance, the European continent, throwing events dominator for many decades, did not get any gold medal in the male category. Egyptian-born and Qatari representative Ashraf Amgad Elseify achieved a massive world record in the hammer and Fredrick Dacres and Keshorn Walcott confirmed the Caribbean is going to be in the future much more than a sprint nation. Finally, the 14th World junior championships in Barcelona were a successful one for the host nation Spain, which put an end to a long drought with an outstanding gold medal at the female triple jump, thanks to 16-year-old Ana Peleteiro, who improved her previous best by more than half-a-metre.                     

Ana Peleteiro became the first Spanish World Junior champion in 12 years
Photo: David Ramos/ Getty Images Europe
       Spain is well-known as a country which excels in sports, a powerhouse in football, basket ball, tennis or cycling. However this is not the case of athletics, which standards have dramatically fallen in recent years. In the last Summer World championship in Daegu, the country only achieved two finalists: one man (Manuel Olmedo) and one woman (Natalia Rodríguez), which is its weakest tally since the contest is being held. Sadly Spain is more known recently in track and field because of its doping scandals than for its good results. Furthermore, while football, basket ball and even other sports like climbing and karate are increasingly growing in popularity among youngsters, official statistics talk about 40.000 affiliations to track and field clubs dropped last year. (2) A main reason is our sport has failed to produce a role model like Rafael Nadal, Pau Gasol, Fernando Alonso and Real Madrid and Barcelona football team members. Lack of popular interest and as consequence lack of commercial sponsorship brought to the rather unpleasant situation of a country which did not broadcast the 2011 World Cross Country, despite being the host nation, and later in the year was also one of the few European countries where Daegu World Championships could not be watched on TV. Yet the Spanish Athletic Federation’s poor management in the last couple of years, neglecting grassroots sport development, has its share of responsibility for this track and field decay inside the country. The same outstanding feat of the victory of Ana Peleteiro in front of an empty stadium in Montjuich is much more the result of an individual effort of the founders of the Agrupación Atlética Barbanza, rather than the consequence of the support of national sportive institutions. A triumph besides which has not had at all the coverage it deserved in the specialized media, nor in Spanish TV, where the sensational performance of Peleteiro was announced only in the end of a very long sports block, after such interesting news as the Real Sociedad football team’s new uniform.  

Ana Peleteiro showing her great power and technique

The future triple jump star was born the 2nd December 1995 in Ribeira, a fishing village in Galice. There she was fostered by the Peleteiro-Brión family. Thanks to them she has grown the excellent person and sportswoman she is today. Ana's parents soon realized about her daughter's talent for sport  so they entered her in a ballet school. Yet, as she confesses now, her character did not fit with this activity so she joined instead as young as a 6-year-old girl the athletic school launched by renowned hurdler María José Martínez Patiño in her own village. Patiño remembers her as an especially energetic and determined child, who however did not have a penchant for hurdling. Long distance runner Carlos Adán replaced Patiño as head coach in the school in 2003. Under Adan’s influence Ana got to win the silver medal at the Galician Cross Championship although it was evident her pupil natural conditions of speed and explosiveness were more appropriate for sprinting and jumping. Anyway, Carlos Adán's training method was never a systematic one but instead he just introduced his young trainees to the practise of track and field twice a week through simple games he got from a book. (3) Adan’s acquaintances refer that at the time he did not cease talking about a young girl so fast he could never catch while playing “steal the bacon” and who was able to jump in standing position one metre further than the rest. (4) Nevertheless, Carlos Adán eventually found a more stable job and left coaching so Ana Peleteiro moved to the nearby A Pobra do Caramiñal in 2007 to enrol the Barbanza Athletic Club.
José Moure, a track and field fanatic, had launched in 1983 the Agrupación Atlética Barbanza, with the little help of his friends. (5) In the beginning Moure was up to foster also activities as canoeing and motocross but it was track and field the most demanded sport. Moure got an athletic track with four lanes on, six in the homestretch. Then it was built a gym, some artificial hills… José Moure, still the club manager, is currently looking for the creation of an indoor facility for the numerous rainy days when training outside is unbearable. The Barbanza Association has always been a familiar affair. José’s three sons are involved in the project. Abelardo is nowadays the head coach, while his sister is a secretary and his brother undertakes administrative tasks. Funding is obtained through athletes’ fees and regional government subsidies, though the latter allowances are missed lately due to the serious economical crisis in Spain, so they have been unable to buy equipment for the athletes in the last years. Interestingly, no member of the Moure family earns a salary from the athletic club: José lives from his revenues as an interior designer, while Abelardo is selling canoes. (5)

Gracia Rey, in the steps of club mate Ana Peleteiro

     On the other hand, both the foremost athlete of the club, Ana Peleteiro, and Abelardo Moure are critical when talking about the role the Galician and Spanish Athletic Federation play in their development. The coach states every time there are fewer competitions, less facilities and tracks in Galice and they are receiving little funding from the regional Federation in spite of being one of the athletic clubs with the best results in the region. (6) The athlete denounces Agrupación Barbanza did not get any support from Madrid until she started to obtain victories at national and international level and even now she has to endure 11-hour exhausting trips by train on her own to join training camps in Madrid, instead of being assured a flight ticket in company of her coach which would be the most advisable way of travelling for a still 16-year old teen. (7) Instead of financing sport at grassroots levels, the Spanish Athletic Federation still keeps being faithful to its formula of “fishing” the track and field hopefuls once they have flourished in their local athletic clubs, convincing them to join the high performances centres located in Madrid, Barcelona or Soria.    
       Nevertheless, Asociación Atlética Barbanza makes up for not counting with the awesome facilities of a High Performance Centre with commitment and an enjoyable atmosphere which has reaped stunning fruits, starting with the number of members, currently around 120 athletes, most of them coming from the same A Pobra do Caramiñal and nearby locations. A figure not negligible at all considering it is a village of just 9000 inhabitants. One of the secrets of success is to instil involvement with the club through spending some hours a week helping younger trainees in their track and field apprenticeship. Thus Ana Peleteiro is at the same time teacher and pupil as also was the case of Abelardo Moure when he was a promising javelin thrower. Lardo, still only 33, has proved an outstanding mentor, which last year finished a close second on occasion of the national Federation’s award for Coach Revelation of the Year, though he consider himself much more than a coach: a friend, a big brother, with a privileged relationship and chemistry with his trainees. Coming from one of the most technical athletic events as the javelin is, Abelardo Moure is a perfectionist able to make become his protégées true experts in the technical performance of their respective events. Ana describes him accurately as a very committed coach, a great communicator with deep knowledge about the technique of every athletic specialty. (1) Besides he guides his charges wisely through their training sessions avoiding overcharge: they just grow as athletes as the same time their body does. As an example, the group of Ana Peleteiro works out four times a week in single sessions and the triple jump world champion never lift weights, as the national coaches in the sector were amazed of discover in a training camp in Madrid. Some may believe the sensational performances of Peleteiro are just the result of her outstanding natural talent, yet Lidia Parada, another Barbanzan athlete, also qualified for the World Junior championship in the javelin discipline. Besides, two other girls, born in 1997, Iria Forján (8) and Gracia Rey, prove the good hand Lardo has guiding athletes in jumping events. Iria knows already what is to be a national champion, a feat she achieved in long jump in the cadet age category last year with an excellent 5.72m mark, taking maximum advantage of her stunning speed, and Gracia came close to it last winter, grabbing the silver medal in the triple jump event. Why not considering the possibility of this small club having as much as three world class jumpers in some year’s time?

Iria Forján is also a national champion jumper

     Notwithstanding, no Abelardo Moure’s pupil can match for the moment the gigantic progression of Ana Peleteiro since she started practising seriously triple jump only three years ago. Immediately the Ribeira-born athlete fell in love with this discipline, which she considers the hardest in track and field, really an injury prone one, but at the same time full of beauty, because of its combination of very different skills as flexibility, strength and coordination. (7) Talent, willingness and dedication quickly paid off, allowing Ana a huge improvement in the specialty in a very short time, breaking even his coach’s more “realistic” expectations. In all it was nearly two metres in two years, from 12.33m in 2010 to 14.17m, her winning jump in Barcelona. During the 2010 indoor season Ana Peleteiro triumphed for the first time in a national championship, in the cadet age category, in both long and triple jump. However her take off really began the following year, her first as a youth athlete. In May, on occasion of the national championship by regions in Valladolid, Peleteiro became the first Spanish youth girl ever over 13 metres (13.09m exactly). That moment remains one of Ana's best memories. Then she went to Lille for her first major international competition with high expectations. At the World Championships she accomplished a bronze medal, the only one for Spain in the contest and the 6th her country had achieved since the IAAF set the World Youths in 1999, in a hardly fought and full of nerves final, where only 2cm separated the bronze medal and the 7th place. In spite of her medal Peleteiro was half-happy with the result because she was ready for a PB she could not eventually achieve, but weather conditions and a slight injury in her right leg slowed her a bit. Nevertheless the Barbanza Athletic Club jumper obtained her revenge at the closing meeting of the season, the European Youth Olympic Festival in Trabzon, where she won in a new national record (13.17), beating the gold medallist in Lille, Sokhna Galle, in the process. Understandably, she was chosen by the Spanish Athletic Federation best junior athlete of the year, when still belonging to the youth category.

Ana Peleteiro made another impressive quality leap in 2012. In late January she launched her season in the best possible way, landing 13.04m beyond the board to break simultaneously both national youth and junior indoor records at the Galician Championships. Besides she improved her long jump PB in the same meeting to 5.87m. A remarkable distance considering injury setbacks during the precedent year had made her take the decision of focusing her limited time exclusively in the triple jump and forget about specific long jump workouts. That auspicious beginning was confirmed during the summer, when the Pobrense athlete flew to 13.50m the 13th May in Cangas for a massive personal jump, also a record in the superior junior category, thus overcoming Ruth Ndoumbe, in the same way she had erased before Vanessa Peñalver and Maitane Azpeitia’s teen marks. Peleteiro added 3cm more in Avilés in June but the best was yet to come.

The Galician jumper came to Barcelona World Junior Championships as one of the three serious prospects of medal for the host country, along with Didac Salas, gold medallist in the pole vault event at the inaugural Youth Olympic Games in Singapore, and new race walk sensation Alvaro Martín. However, while Salas and Martín fell a little short of expectations, the triple jumper delivered a terrific performance. After leading the contestants in the qualifying round with 13.63, another national record, Ana Peleteiro assumed the pressure, mastered the tricky changing wind and grew to another dimension to set three new records, among emotive sobs, in each one of her first three attempts: 13.64, 13.96 and 14.17m, the last one against 1 metre of head wind, to clinch the gold medal ahead of Lithuanian Dovida Dzindzalitaité, who also reached 14.17, and previous yearly leader and favourite Liuba Zaldívar from Cuba. Afterwards, Peleteiro explained for her huge improvement it was decisive her change from 15 to 17 strides in her run approach. Interestingly, Ana’s winning mark was more than one metre better than her best effort just one year before in Lille and only inferior to Carlota Castrejana’s 14.64m and Conchi Paredes’ 14.30 in the Spanish all-time lists and she is still 16-year-old! Her mark is also a European youth record and makes her become the fourth performer ever in her age category after Chinese Qiuyan Huang and Ruiping Reng and Cuban Daylenis Alcántara. Besides, although achieved after the deadline of the qualifying period, Ana Peleteiro’s 14.17 is inside the B standard for London and a better mark than the one achieved for Patricia Sarrapio last year, which won her selection for the Olympic Games. Ana Peleteiro is only the third Spanish woman gold medallist at the World Junior championship. Her predecessors were the awesome race walker Mari Cruz Díaz, who won the title in 1988 two years after having become European senior champion, and Concha Montaner at the long jump in 2000. (9)

Nevertheless, unlike Montaner who, unable to cope with the pressure of an important competition, has have a disappointing senior career, failing to meet the expectations she had created with her gold medal in Santiago de Chile, Ana Peleteiro always delivers her best when it matters most: big challenges are a booster for her. Once a 1.50m-diminutive girl, Ana never feared to face rivals much taller and some years older than her.  This year she has grown up to a slender 1.71 athlete and her body development is starting to make a difference too, in that highly demanding discipline. Sky is the limit for this talented Spaniard who has raised all kind of praises in her country, after her groundbreaking performance, starting with current national record holder Carlota Castrejana who published in her twitter page: “besides her pure jumping talent, triple jump technique seems innate to her.” (9) Ramón Cid, Spanish triple jump record holder for many years and now coach responsible in the sector in the Spanish team argues “she is very good technically, hit the board in perfect stride, she is much faster now and always very competitive.” (5) Finally, her coach Abelardo Moure, a man who knows well Ana Peleteiro, concludes: “She has an ideal body shape for the triple jump event, with a very high centre of gravity and besides she is very flexible and adjusts very well when hitting the board, which allows her to jump 40cm more than her competitors.” (5)
An outgoing, sensible and vey mature for her age girl, when you hear Ana Peleteiro talking in interviews she seems to have what it takes to maintain a long term athletic career. Out of the track she is an excellent student, whose best friends are also Barbanza Athletic Club members as Iria Forján and Gracia Rey and who has the chance of chatting on the web with her idol Teddy Tamgho. “He really looks like me, the way he acts, the way he competes. When he is in a contest he is arrogant but at the same time he is humble… To perform well he needs the spectators support, he needs to motivate himself thinking ‘I am the best; nobody is going to beat me here; there is no need to worry.’ It works for him and I try to do the same. Besides I often chat with him over the Internet, I ask him for advice and Teddy helps me out with suggestions about my triple jump technique.” (7) Ana Peleteiro also is starting to be known as someone who motivates herself setting before the beginning of every track and field campaign very ambitious targets, which for the moment she has always reached. For 2012 she wanted to jump 14m and get a medal at the World Juniors in Barcelona. For the future she is not content dreaming with competing at the Olympic Games but expects to climb one day to the top of an Olympic or World Championship podium. She also aims for the old world record of Inessa Kravets (15.50m) which dates back from the time of the female triple jump pioneers.

lunes, 1 de agosto de 2011

Some Yargelis Savigne's rivals

Simona La Mantia: goodbye to the bad times, welcome back dreams
Photo: La Presse
             Athletics fans had the chance of watching the Beijing Olympics triple jump final, arguably the best competition ever held in the history of the event. (1) No less than six athletes broke the 15 metres barrier on that occasion: Tatyana Lebedeva, Hrisopiyi Devetzi, Yargelis Savigne, Olga Rypakova, Marija Sestak and Françoise Mbango-Etone, who achieved to defend successfully her crown, setting on the process a stunning new Olympic record of 15.39 metres.  However, the post-Olympic year means a new beginning: some athletes retire, others take a brief rest from tough workouts and competition and others bestow themselves to the lovable task of maternity.
            How things had changed just one year later at Berlin World Championships! Osaka winner Yargelis Savigne returned to gold, after the great dissapointment of Beijing, where she had finished out of the medals.  Nevertheless, she did not really find the same kind of opposition: she did not even need to reach 15 metres.  Compatriot Mabel Gay, former world junior and youth champion, in her come of age year, produced a remarkable 14.61 jump, which gained her the silver medal, ahead the always reliable Anna Pyatykh, who was three centimetres short of the Cuban. They were the lower results for the minor medals in a major global competition since 2001. Gay would only have had the chance of doing the first three jumps and finished tenth at the precedent year Olympic final, with that medal winning effort of 14.61; while Pyatykh had just been eight at the same contest, jumping 15 centimetres more than in Berlin. (2) Furthermore, only three athletes have reached the 15 metres quality barrier for a total of five jumps since 2009: Yargelis Savigne (2), Olga Rypakova (2) and Nadezhda Alekhina (1).

Paraskevi Papahristou, the U-23 double European champion
Photo: Pawel Szatkowski/Agencja Gazeta
            It is worth to be noted two of the three medallists in Beijing were not present and the other, Tatyana Lebedeva, was not at her 100%, after a recent injury setback. All of them Mbango, Devetzi and Lebedeva, were always ready to deliver their best at the big challenges for many years and, after their sudden vacancy, is not easy to find new athletes with their talent and charisma. The great six times World champion Russian ace has been out due to recurring physical troubles and maternity duties for the last two seasons, but she still hopes to end her career in style in London.  Similar feelings have the now naturalised French Mbango-Etone, who will try to produce another upsetting come back for the next Olympics as she did in Beijing, but she is now four years older.  Finally, Hrisopiyi Devetzi has decided to retire.  The Greek is one of the few triple jump great veterans in doing so.  Lebedeva, Mbango and also Yamilé Aldama, Trecia Smith or Baya Rahouli still hope to be in contention for the next majors. Yet, the most difficult matches right now for Savigne must be found elsewhere.  
            Arguably the two most consistent runners currently in the circuit, along with Savigne, are Ukraine representative Olha Saladuha and Italian-born Simona La Mantia, who were also absents in Berlin for very different reasons, but stroke gold and silver respectively at Barcelona European champs.  Saladuha, had obtained a praiseworthy fourth place at the prior edition of the championships, held in Goteborg, besides a place of finalist in both Osaka and Beijing, before taking a year off to give birth to her daughter Diana.  Then she was back stronger than ever, not allowing too much time of relaxing or “being lazy”, taking the illustrative example of Lebedeva as mother-athlete. (3)  In May of 2010 she was already jumping 14.76 and felt she could be able of fighting for the top spots in Barcelona.  There she achieved a jump of five more centimetres to get her first big victory, easier than expected. During the season she was also the victor at the European Team Super League and runner-up at the Continental Cup in Split, only beaten because of Olga Rypakova’s out of reach performance.  This season Saladuha is in equally outstanding form: she has improved her all time PB to 14.98, defended her European team title in Stockholm and has jumped beyond 14.70 in every one of her six summer outings, getting the goal of beating Savigne in the last one, also in the Swedish capital. Now she will try to do the same in Daegu.  It is being an excellent year indeed for Ukrainian triple jumping, where two other athletes have achieved the Daegu A standard (Yastrebova and Tsyhotzka) and two others are over the B required norm (Mamyeyeva and Knyazheva). 
            Simona La Mantia is one of the athletes, as Bulgarian Ivet Lalova, you feel glad they can be back after a long fight against severe injuries.  This Palermo lad, who feel proud of representing the whole Italy, because she is the daughter of a father from the South and a mother from the North. (4)  A child prodigy, Simona beat every age national record, achieving international success with silver and gold medals at successive under-23 Area championships in 2003 and 2005, where she leaped no less than 14.43 into a strong headwind. She flied during that season to a stunning for her age 14.69 and was pointed as the future star of the triple jump.  Then accidents, surgery and a sort of problems cut short her career. Now she is back as she says a new athlete and a new person.  After the big confidence boost of her silver medal in Barcelona she is training hard again in search of her Olympic dream.  At last European indoors she showed what she is capable of, with two winner jumps of 14.60.  It is worth of note her best two performances of the last two seasons have been where it mattered most.  Do you know what I mean?     
Olha Saladuha, a serious contender for World and Olympic gold
Photo: Andy Lyons/ Getty Images
             As I said before, two other athletes, apart from Savigne, have jumped further than 15 metres during the last couple of seasons, but they have not always kept the same level of consistency.  Kazakh Olga Rypakova seems to like even years and dislike the odds. After her excellent 15.11 massive Asian record at Beijing Olympics, she was not quite awesome the following year, where she did not qualify for Berlin final.  In 2010 she performed flawlessly all over the season, relegating Savigne to number 2 after beating her at both World Indoors and Continental Cup, in both occasions well beyond the 15 metres.  However, this year she has gone further than 14.25 only once…  according to her curriculum, she should be a fearsome contender for (2012) London Olympics.   
            Still more irregular is Nadezhda Bazhenova Alekhina, who surprised everybody, leaping to a massive 15.14 at the 2009 Russian national championships to finish up, one month afterwards, one metre and a half behind (13.60 at the qualifiers) at Berlin worlds.  Similar story happened at the Europeans the following year, but there she still could manage a fourth place.  This year she has not reached 14 metres so far. At the Russian trials for Barcelona, the most consistent Russian triple jumper besides Lebedeva, Anna Pyatykh, did not qualify for the first time in many years for a major championship.  Without their standouts, the national team was well below their standards.  Alsu Murtazina and Natalya Kutyakova failed to make any impact, while curiously an ex-Russian now representing Belgium, Svetlana Bolshakova, won the bronze medal. Pyatykh is in poor form this year and so is Anastasiya Taranova-Potapova, who, after a promising victory at 2009 Torino European indoors, has not done much.  Another returning athlete from maternity, Oleksya Bufalova-Zabara is again in the mix, but she has not replicated outdoors her indoor campaign, where she finished second in Paris, behind La Mantia.  Such are the things the powerhouse of triple jumping will only have two representatives in Daegu: Murtazina  again, who, more experienced now is expected to deliver quite better than in Barcelona and Anna Kuropatkina.  For future challenges the hope is Yana Borodina, 2009 World Youth gold medallist and brand new European junior champion as well.       
Katerina Ibarguën, six national records in one  outstanding season
       Cuban athletes are settled collectively in a much more privileged position this year than Russians.  Five triple jumpers of this country are inside the top-20 summer seasonal lists and we could watch at a simple regional meeting in La Habana five women again beyond 14.30 metres.  Yargelis Savigne is the undisputed queen of the specialty and Mabel Gay seems to have secured her berth for Daegu, after achieving 14.65.  Yet there is a hard fight for the two spots left.  Experienced Yusmay Bicet and Yarianna Martínez have been overcome this year by 2008 World Junior gold and silver medallists Daylenis Alcántara (14.56) and Yosleivis Rivalta (14.61).  Watch out especially for the former who was already jumping 14.21 at sixteen years of age and has one youth and two junior global titles in her curriculum.  
       Also next to Caribbean shores lives the great revelation of this campaign, Colombian Catherine Ibargüen.  This athlete has always been practicing both horizontal and vertical jumps but used to be more known as a High jump specialist.  She is the national record holder with a respectable 1.93 since 2005 and has been present in quite a number of international competitions in this event.  Notwithstanding, perhaps because she was not progressing further, has decided to concentrate all her efforts lately at the triple jump event, with more than remarkable results: six national records in just some months, improving from 14.27 from last year to  14.83, a new Area best, which put her in medal contention for Daegu.  She has also won the South American Championships, ahead of well-known Keila Costa of Brazil. 

Olga Rypakova, the World indoor champion and Asian record holder
                In the Old Continent, besides Russian and Ukrainian specialists, a rich triple jump tradition seems to have flourished around Balkan Mountains.  Countries like Serbia, Slovenia, Greece, Bulgaria or Romania all count with one or more astounding specialists in the event.  Marija Sestak and Biljana Topic are not anymore in their prime but Snezana Rodic has steadily become one of the most creditable performers in the circuit, representing her country Slovenia.  Adelina Gavrila could still produce a noteworthy fifth place in Barcelona.  Yet Cristina Bujin and Carmen Toma are ready to take over in Romania once she decides to leave sport elite.  Ex Olympic champion Tereza Marinova had already retired but Petia Dacheva and Andriana Banova have a bright future ahead of them.  Not really far away, Slovak Dana Veldakova is one of the regulars at major championships finals.
            Nevertheless, the Balkan nation bound to glory in a near future seems to be Greece. Hrisopiyi Devetzi is not anymore making the highlights at the Athletics stadiums but there are no less than three triple jumpers in the country hoping to be a worth heir of her legacy.  Athanasia Perra, the most veteran of the trio, reached 14.60 in 2009 and 2010, but she is not at her best this year.  On the other hand, the two younger athletes Paraskevi Papahristou and Niki Paneta are starting to set a tradition of domestic rivalry, in order to become the number one athlete in the country, which might develop in celebrated duels at international level. Indeed, last week end Papahristou won the national championship by the narrowest of margins: 14.56 to 14.55.  Paneta, now 25, after some disappointing years, is starting to fulfil the hopes she had created in her teen years. Her national rival can go even further. Since her first international success, the bronze medal at the 2008 World Junior Championships, after Cubans Alcántara and Rivalta, her reputation has not ceased to grow. Already jumping 14.47 at 19 years of age she beat renowned rivals up to two more years of age, as Kaire Leibak, Liliya Kulik, Cristina Bujin or Alsu Murtazina, to get to crown herself as European Under-23 champion in Kaunas-2009.  Despite a disappointing 2010, were she cut short her summer season, arguing lack of motivation, she is back this year where she used to be.  She has defended her U-23 title, competing in a world apart, against such accomplished rivals as Carmen Toma and Polish Anna Jagaciak.  Paraskevi has also improved to 14.72, just seven centimetres short of the age record which holds Anna Pyatykh since 2003.  And she is ready for more.  Hopefully she will not lose her motivation again, because she is talented enough to become Olympic Champion one day. 
       Two other athletes are worth of mention in Europe.  German Katja Demut has jumped a massive national record this season of 14.57 but she has not delivered yet in any major competition what is expected for the quality of her marks.  Patricia Mamona, a student at Clemson University in the United States, and a double NCAA champion is the last one in making a fantastical breakthrough this summer season, after her huge Portuguese record of 14.42, at the recent national championships.  
            Olga Rypakova is the most celebrated triple jumper star in Asia but it is also remarkable in her neighbour country, Uzbekistan, three athletes have achieved the standards for Daegu.  Among them is Valeriya Kanatova, a bronze medallist at 2009 World Youth Championships and already an Asian silver winner in senior category this year.  Further in the East, Chinese Xie Limei seems to be back at her best level, after too many below par performances in the last couple of seasons.  Her young mate Li Yanmei has also made the A standard for Daegu.
         As we can see, triple jump competition is being fierce all around the world and many young outsiders are ready for the battle.  Will it be possible again for Savigne to win without jumping over 15 metres?    

Daylenis Alcántara, in company of boxer Robeisy Ramírez, receives the distinction of best  Cuban junior
 sportwoman of the year 2010.
Photo: Calixto N. Llanes