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News02 Mar 2023

The superhero who jumped from poverty to the top of the world


World Athletics Championships Oregon22 - Day Four (© Getty Images)

Yulimar Rojas is one of the most colourful athletes of track and field's present era. Venezuela’s world record holder triple jumper could win up to two gold medals World Athletics Championships Budapest 23.

In Venezuela, 75% of the population live in poverty due to the major economic crises of the last decades. The poorest 10%, almost 3 million Venezuelans survive on just $8 per month. On 21 October 1995, Rojas was born in similar circumstances in the capital, Caracas, and grew up in a slum - or, as they call it in Venezuela, a barrio.

Like a young child growing up in a Brazilian favela, or in the barrios of other South American countries, for Rojas, sport is almost the only way not only to break out, but also to - literally - survive. It's no coincidence that, in addition to her talent, her willpower and fighting spirit pull her apart from the rest.

Before she first got involved in athletics at the age of 15, Rojas was inspired by the Venezuelan women's volleyball team that qualified for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. She had the height to start playing volleyball very young, but there was no club near her place. Her stepfather, former boxer Pedro Zapata, told her to try athletics rather than volleyball. Rojas said in an interview earlier that when she got there, she and some of her training partners had to dig the sandpit where they could practice jumps.

However, that didn't put her off! She won her first competition straight away, which was in shot put. Before she tried triple jump, she showed her talent in sprints and high jump as well.

She said if she hadn't moved to Spain in 2015, before her age of 20, she wouldn't have become the greatest. Her family has always been very important to her and once she became a successful athlete, she kept her promise to her mother. After her first successes, she promised her mother that one day she would buy her a small house with walls. Because when she was a child, they had only lived in a “ranchito” made of all sorts of bad materials.

In Guadalajara, Spain, she started to work with Iván Pedroso, under whose guidance she flew to the top of the world. At just 20, she burst onto the adult scene when he first became world indoor champion in Portland in 2016 and then went on to win silver at the Olympics. In Rio, she was only beaten by another South American star, Caterine Ibargüen, who dominated the triple jump before her. A year later, she lost the South American Championships against her Colombian rival, but she took over the crown at the World Athletics Championships in London.

She defeated her title in Doha and Oregon too, becoming the first woman to win three gold medals in triple jump. If she comes out on top in Budapest, she will catch up on Christian Taylor, the four-time men's triple jump champion.

Rojas has not only been unbeatable since the 2020’s coronavirus pandemic shutdown, but her dominance over the field has grown tremendously over the past two seasons. It's not uncommon for her to jump a metre bigger than her rival who is directly behind her. Seven of her nine all-time best results belong to her.

Unfortunately, the covid disease “has robbed” fans of the thrill of experiencing one of the world's longest-standing records broken. Unfortunately, the Tokyo Olympics were held behind closed doors, so no one was able to see Rojas break Inessa Kravets' world record of 15.50m, which has stood since 1995. She caused one of the biggest sensations of the XXXII Summer Olympics with her fantastic 15.67m performance.

Luckily, six months later, in Belgrade, almost 15,000 people were there to see her continue to write both the history of athletics and herself. She won the gold medal at the 2022 World Indoor Championships with 15.74 metres.

"I was born to jump 16 metres" – Rojas said after her second world record. We hope to witness something similar on Friday 25 August. She could easily be in the hunt for a second gold medal in Budapest, as the 27-year-old Venezuelan has not given up on the possibility of competing in the long jump.

If she can clear over 7 metres in legal wind conditions, she could even have a good chance against Ivana Vuleta and Malaika Mihambo on the evening of 20 August. She is one of the most popular athletes in the world with one million Instagram followers. She's a huge role model whose every jump is an art. Her honest reactions after a fantastic performance make her even more of a superstar.

He loves comic books about superheroes and wants people to see her as one. We think Budapest is the perfect place for her to shine.

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