She is one of the elite athletes. In Eugene, the triple jumper Yulimar Rojas appeared in the company of the crème de la crème of world athletics. Those capable of breaking a world record on the track at Hayward Field: sprinter Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, pole vaulter Armand Duplantis, hurdlers Karsten Warholm and Sydney McLaughlin or shot putter Ryan Crouser…

If the Venezuelan did not manage to improve her own world record – 15.74 meters achieved this year in Belgrade during the indoor world championships – she won her third consecutive outdoor planetary title.

With a triple leap to 15.47 meters, the pupil of Cuban coach Ivan Pedroso dominated his competitors by head and shoulders, relegating his pursuers to 58 and 75 centimeters – Jamaican Shanieka Ricketts and American Tori Franklin.

Modest first jump

The outcome of a world final had rarely been so inevitable. The only question did not lie in the identity of the winner – Yulimar Rojas – but in the realization or not of a new world record.

Author of a modest first jump which only placed her second in the final, the champion put on a show from her second attempt. The South American harangued the crowd and launched a clapping.

Then, before rushing off, she recited her scales aloud, slapped her thighs as if to electrify her muscles. With a triple jump to 15.47 meters, the favorite knocked out the contest.

On her fourth attempt, she rebounded to an unknown length, apparently beyond the world record, but this attempt was not measured since the athlete had bitten the take-off board. On the last try, despite a very bad board, she still landed at an impressive 15.39 meters.

Accumulation of firsts

Born on the Caribbean coast of Venezuela, Rojas grew up in a house with a hole in the roof in a poor family. Passionate about athletics, her career took an unexpected turn in 2015, the day a famous social network offered her an automatic recommendation to get in touch with an ex-champion she admired, the multi-world gold medalist and Olympic long jumper, Ivan Pedroso.

She wrote him a message: “” I dared to contact him and told him how much I admired him and that I dreamed of training with him, said Yulimar Rojas. He said he had followed my career and believed I had great talent. »

The triple jumper makes the big leap to reach Spain where the Cuban legend lives. The hitch works great. In seven years, Yulimar Rojas has gone from a young fan to a champion who garners international titles, sets world records and campaigns for LGBT rights in her country.

She is the first – and only – world outdoor champion and world indoor champion from Venezuela. In 2016, she became the first woman from her country to win an Olympic medal in athletics. She is also the first Venezuelan woman to hold a world record.

Finally, in Tokyo on August 1, 2021, Yulimar Rojas won the only Olympic gold medal for a Venezuelan sportswoman. She had also broken a 26-year-old world record that day by landing 15.67 meters, which is still the best outdoor performance of all time. The previous one belonged to Inessa Kravets, 15.50 meters achieved in 1995.

Exceed the prize list of his Cuban coach

The triple jump has only been open to female practice since the end of the 1980s and was first included in the program of a world championship in 1993 in Stuttgart and in 1996 in Atlanta in the program of the Olympic Games. The discipline is therefore relatively new.

“I’ve said it before, I don’t like to set limits as an athlete,” says Yulimar Rojas. She wants to be the first woman to jump over 16 meters. “I’m gonna make it. I was born to jump this distance. This is what motivates me the most. Nothing is impossible, that’s my motto. »

His second motivation is to surpass his coach’s record. The Cuban has won Olympic gold in the long jump as well as five indoor and four outdoor world titles. Yulimar Rojas now has one Olympic title, three outdoor world titles and three indoor world titles. At 26, she has time to grant her wish.

If everything smiles on her, the world champion has had a slight hitch this year. She was unable to line up in the long jump competition in order to achieve the double she was aiming for. His qualifying jump measured at 6.93 meters in Spain has not been validated by World Athletics. A jump made with triple jump shoes whose sole height is higher than that approved for the long jump: 25 millimeters against 20.

The international federation had apologized before the start of the competition: “We know that this is disappointing for Ms. Rojas and her many fans. But we can’t wait to see her compete in the triple jump. »

Starting next year, at the Budapest Worlds, and in two years at the next Games in Paris, Yulimar Rojas will have two new opportunities to fly over his discipline and, this time, to also make his long jump colleagues tremble. .