Venezuelan’s 15.43m at World Indoor Tour in Madrid beats Tatyana Lebedeva’s global mark

Yulmar Rojas leapt 15.43m to improve Tatyana Lebedeva’s 16-year-old world indoor record by 7cm and in doing so the Venezuelan athlete showed further proof that Inessa Kravets’ long-standing outdoor world record of 15.50m is on borrowed time.

The tall 24-year-old from South America took to the runway with her trademark short-cropped hair on Friday night (Feb 21) in the Spanish city of Madrid and jumped a big 15.29m in the fourth round before soaring out to 15.43m in the sixth.

It follows the world records by Mondo Duplantis in the pole vault during this indoor season – and is the second world record in 24 hours after the women’s half-marathon mark fell to Ababel Yeshaneh in Ras Al Khaimah – and it makes Rojas the red-hot favourite for Olympic gold in Tokyo given that her big rival, Caterine Ibargüen, is now 36.

“I’m over the moon,” said Rojas. “I can’t believe I’m the world record-holder. I want to get home and cry. I need to cry to release the adrenaline I have right now. When I managed 15.29m so easily in the fourth round, I thought the record was definitely in my legs.”

Last year Rojas jumped 15.41m outdoors – at the time the second best in history – in Spain and went on to successfully defend her world title in Doha.

Rojas was born in Caracas in 1995 – the same year Kravets set her 15.50m outdoor world record. She had humble beginnings as she grew up in a crudely built shack that did not keep out water when it rained, but she grew into a 6ft 4in woman who initially played basketball and then did high jump (jumping 1.81m aged 15) and also long jump before focusing on triple jump.

In her breakthrough year of 2013, she set two national junior records in one day – 1.87m and 6.17m in the high and long jump – but she soon switched to triple jump and managed 13.57m on her debut and apart from some injury-related blips since, such as the 2018 season, she has continued to improve under the coaching of Cuba’s nine-time world long jump champion Ivan Pedroso in Spain.

“Yuli is achieving all her goals I set out as a coach,” Pedroso said in 2016. “We are now focusing on her speed, run-up and take-off. She has no limits. When she is focused on a competition, she can be a very dangerous rival and exceed all expectations.”

She is certainly exceeding expectations. Rojas is now the world indoor record-holder and the outdoor record is within her reach. Although given that Kravets was given an anti-doping ban during her career, many will now feel Rojas is already the all-time world No.1.

Outside of track and field, her performances have also boosted the spirits of her fellow country men and women from Venezuela – a nation that has suffered political and economic turmoil in recent years.

Elsewhere at the Madrid meeting on Friday night, Andy Pozzi of Britain won the 60m hurdles in 7.48.

Filip Mihaljević took the shot put by one centimetre from Konrad Bukowiecki in a Croatian record of 21.74m, while Juan Miguel Echevarria of Cuba won the men’s long jump with 8.33m.

Ronnie Baker of the United States, meanwhile, took the men’s 60m in 6.44 and Poland’s Justyna Swiety-Ersetic won the women’s 400m in 51.93

» See the February 29 issue of AW magazine for more

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