Spikes25 Jul 2014

Colombia's Finest


Caterine Ibarguen

World triple jump champion Caterine Ibarguen has bossed her event for the last couple of seasons. Her latest victory came in the Diamond League in Monaco last weekend, where a massive 15.31m made her the first woman to break the 15 metre barrier since 2010. Here are ten things you may not know about the 30-year-old Colombian with a spring in her step.

1. Super streak

Ibarguen boasts a 17 competition (18 if you include long jump) unbeaten streak stretching back to the London 2012 Olympics, where she had to settle for silver behind Kazakhstan’s Olga Rypakova.

Since then, the Colombian has been invincible, securing the 2013 world title in Moscow and nine victories on the Diamond League circuit.

Watch this enthusiastic news presenter lurching on the wrong side of impartiality in the wake of her victory in Moscow.

2. On the volley

Born in the region of Urabá and raised by her grandmother Ayola Rivas, Ibarguen played volleyball in her younger years.

It was at the age of 12 that she began to focus on athletics. Her first coach Wilder Zapata noticed her potential, and a move out to the athletics academy Villa Deportiva Antonio Roldán Bentancour in Medellín, Colombia's second largest city, followed.

3. High ambitions

Though she dabbled in heptathlon and the long and triple jumps as a junior, Ibarguen featured principally as a high jumper in her formative years.

She holds the national high jump record of 1.93m. This was set in Cali, in her native Colombia, on the way to winning the South American Championships in 2005.

4. Bounce-back-ability

Ibarguen failed to qualify for the 2008 Beijng Olympics in the high jump. This came after failing to make it through to the final rounds of the 2004 Athens Olympics, the 2005 World Championships and the 2006 Indoor World Championships.

This period of naval gazing prompted Ubaldo Duany, her Cuban coach – himself an 8.32m long jumper – to convince her that her future lay in the hop-skip-jump.

Caterine Ibarguen

She took up the triple jump after failing to make an impact in the high jump

5. Nurturing and nursing

After the disappointment of Beijing, Ibarguen packed her bags and moved to live and train in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, where she still lives.

Following the move, she studied nursing at the Metropolitan University there, graduating in 2012.

It was in Puerto Rico that she began to focus on to the triple jump, though she still competed in high jump events while honing her technique.

6. Three steps forwards

The switch to triple jump paid off, and in 2010 she broke the 14m mark for the first time.

A prolific 2011 proved to be her break through year. She set seven national and three area records – improving her distance by 0.70m over the course of the year. She leapt a career best of 14.99m in Bogota, a PB that would remain until last weekend’s performance in Monaco.

The highpoint of the year came with a bronze at the World Championships in Daegu courtesy of a 14.84m. Two years later it would be gold in Moscow.

7. National hero

Her hero is 400m runner Ximena Restrepo, who won Colombia’s first ever Olympic medal in Barcelona in 1992. Ibarguen’s silver in London made her the second Colombian to achieve the feat.

8. Love on the track

Her boyfriend is Colombian hurdler Alexander Ramos. When asked who is the more competitive of the two, she tells SPIKES with a smile: “I am. I have a competitive mind.”

9. Bean fiend

Colombian coffee is regarded as amongst the finest in the world. It was therefore no surprise that Ibarguen revealed herself as a big fan. “Juan Valdez is my favourite,” she says. At SPIKES we've never tried a Valdez brew, but we trust her judgment.

10. Soccer in her locker

Ibarguen has been recently joined as a Colombian sporting superstar by the national football team, who progressed to the quarterfinals of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

When asked whether she would make a better footballer than star player James Rodriguez, Ibarguen laughs: “Of course, I would make a better footballer! Although, I would like to see James Rodriguez do some triple jumps.”

James, the gauntlet has been laid...