Latin America almost swept the triple jump on Sunday. As the only one who surpassed the 15-meter mark (15.17 meters), Colombian athlete Caterine Ibargüen took home the gold. Venezuelan Yulimar Rojas ended up in second place with a 14.98-meter jump. The medal is especially sweet for Ibargüen, because her 2016 Olympics didn’t get off on the best foot.
Before the Opening Ceremony, Ibargüen was in the running to become her country’s flag bearer. The citizens of Colombia voted on an athlete through a poll. However, as a DirecTV-sponsored athlete, she accused Claro of tampering with the results. So when gymnast Jossimar Calvo won the vote, Ibargüen didn’t trust that these were the results. In the end, Yuri Alvear waved her country’s flag, but it’s hard to imagine Ibargüen didn’t feel bothered by how things transpired.
But there was no evidence of salt levels as she took home Colombia’s first gold medal in track and field. After winning, she happily posed with her flag and a sombrero vueltiao – the traditional hat the entire team sported during the Parade of Nations.
Going into the games, the two-time world champion was favored to win. She took silver at the last Olympics, and won 36 out of her last 37 competitions. The 32-year-old hoped to challenge Ukraine’s Inessa Kravet’s 15.50-meter jump, but she couldn’t quite get it done. Still, she made her loved ones and country proud. “It’s the biggest dream to achieve this,” Ibargüen told Reuters. “I’m very happy and proud.” In her home village of Choco, the entire neighborhood came out to watch her.
For 20-year-old Yulimar Rojas, this is her first Olympic win. And it’s Venezuela’s first medal in athletics in 64. Arnoldo Devonish won the first medal (a bronze) at the 1952 Olympics in the men’s triple jump. Rojas ended up in the sport simply because she was messing around one day. Originally, she did the high jump, and one day during practice, she tried the triple jump for the first time. She impressed her coach so much that he immediately enrolled her in competition, where she missed breaking the national record by a mere eight centimeters. On Sunday, she performed her second-longest jump.