Roger Valentín Iribarne achieved a personal best in the 110 meter hurdles this Sunday by stopping the timer at 13.21 seconds in the Diamond League held in Silesia, Poland. The gold medal won by this Cuban for the Portuguese club Benfica reflects the athletes who have left the Island and are achieving goals in other countries, such as hurdler Orlando Ortega, sprinters Arialis Gandulla and Reynier Mena, and javelin thrower Yulenmis Aguilar.
Valentín’s sporting development in Benfica has been upward. In the Diamond League he emerged as the world leader in the 60-meter hurdles after clocking 7.59 seconds in Lisbon last January. In this way, he also surpassed his personal best that he had reached with Cuba in the world indoor championship held in Birmingham 2018.
Valentín Iribarne requested his withdrawal from the island’s national athletics team in September 2021. There was no motivation for the 26-year-old, whose best mark had been 13.39 seconds. One of the last students of Professor Santiago Antúnez Contreras, the same one who trained Olympic champions Anier García (Sydney 2000) and Dayron Robles (Beijing 2008), got tired of the poor training conditions and the delays in state support.
Valentín Iribarne requested his withdrawal from the island’s national athletics team in September 2021. There was no motivation for the 26-year-old, whose best mark had been 13.39 seconds
This hurdler found in the Benfica club the conditions to develop his potential, so he made contact with them. In Cuba, the athletics crisis was notorious. “A selection that came to include two Olympic finalists in Atlanta 1996 and London 2012, went on to present no athlete at Tokyo 2020,” he published. Play Off Magazine a few months after Valentín settled in Portugal. “To have an idea of the magnitude of the event, the last time that Cuba did not classify an athlete in the 110-meter hurdles to an Olympics was in Rome in 1960, that is, a streak of more than 60 years was broken.”
“The club took care of all the paperwork for us to get here”, Valentín told about his arrival in Benfica and that of Reynier Mena to the program on Youtube and Facebook For Cuba and the World. “We don’t pay for anything.” Unlike the island’s sports authorities, the Portuguese club gave him a house, food and everything he needed for training. The young man acknowledges the work of his coach but rules out defending Cuba in an international event.
While Orlando Ortega escaped during the World Athletics Championships in Moscow in 2013 and prior to the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games. This athlete from Artemisa was considered the successor to medalist Dayron Robles, who also left the Island to settle in Monaco.
Ortega closed 2020 with an unprecedented double in the Spanish indoor championships held in Orense, Galicia, after winning both the 60-meter and 60-meter hurdles. This ranked him as one of the best athletes in Spain that same year.
This runner-up at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, bronze at the Qatar 2019 World Cup and Berlin 2018, recovering from an operation which he underwent due to a tendon rupture and hopes to be back the following year.
Reynier Mena, who in Cuba was pointed out as a benchmark, arrived in Portugal at the same club as Roger Valentín. In less than a year he showed his ability on the track. During his demonstration in July 2022 in La Chaux de Fonds, this sprinter fell below the 10-second barrier in the 100-meter dash with a time of 9.99 seconds and in the 200-meter he registered 19.63 seconds.
Ortega closed 2020 with an unprecedented double in the Spanish indoor championships held in Orense, Galicia, after winning both the 60-meter and 60-meter hurdles
Mena requested the withdrawal sporting activity in 2021 on the Island and since it became known, he confirmed to 14ymedio that his idea was to “continue in the sport and training”. Last May he reaffirmed his good level at the International Meeting Citta Di Savona with his best mark of the season by stopping the clock in 19.95 seconds in the 200-meter test, with which he surpassed Yancarlos Martínez (20.44 seconds).
During an indoor event in the capital of Kazakhstan, Astana, Cuban nationalized Portuguese sprinter Arialis Gandulla won the 60-meter dash with a time of 7.18 seconds, placing her as the third best athlete of the year. .
Meanwhile, the javelin player Yulenmis Aguilar in 2018 was expelled from the Cuban team. That was the “award” she received after winning the bronze medal at the Central American and Caribbean Games in Colombia. They simply told her that “they didn’t have her for the next season.”
Aguilar suffered greatly from this decision. His sporting life became “an ordeal” in that the injuries he presented to his knees, shoulders and elbows forced him to retire for five months. “I didn’t want to know anything about the sport. I went into depression and started to gain a lot of weight,” counted to The voice of Galicia.
The Cuban contacted the coach Raimundo Fernández, who runs the A Coruña Pitchers School and traveled to Spain. “His first six months here were an ordeal for physiotherapists, doctors and rehabilitators,” Fernández stressed.
Yulenmis Aguilar recovered and last year set a Spanish record in the javelin throw with a record of 64.17 meters, a mark that placed her sixth in the ranking launch world. His desire is to compete for the country in which he found support to recover.
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