Cuba’s best day at the V Parapan Am Games so far came Wednesday, August 12 with five of its athletes taking home gold medals. Omara Durand, Yunidis Castillo, Leinier Savón and Ernesto Blanco won in track and field events and Lorenzo Pérez secured his second Parapan Am gold in the Men’s 100m Freestyle S6 swimming competition. The Cuban team says the medals were particularly special coming on the eve of the 89th birthday of Comandante Fidel Castro, leader of the Cuban revolution.
The outstanding results called for an advance celebration of Fidel’s birthday, which was later marked by the whole Cuban delegation at an event on Thursday, August 13 at the Athletes’ Village.
Yunidis Castillo secured her gold medal in the the 100 m T46 sprint. “Fidel will be my inspiration tomorrow in the 200; it is because of him that we are here and we are forever grateful for that,” she told JIT. Castillo is a five-time world champion who holds the world records for the women’s 100, 200 and 400 metre races.
“I am very happy with my time, which was better than I had expected. I came looking to run around 12.60, given that I only put in four months training leading up to the Games. The win is due in a large part to the help I got from my coach, Miriam Ferrer,” Castillo said.
Castillo completely dominated the race, coming in ahead of Brazilians Tania de Jesus Correia (12.92) and Shiel Finder (12.99). “We will continue working to get back into top shape. The World Championships in Doha in October can be a good step before the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janiero,” she said.
Omara Durand, also a sprinter, easily secured her second gold medal in the women’s 400 m T12 with a time of 56.96 seconds. She remained in the running for a third in the 200 metres on Friday, August 14.
In the 400 metres Durand outperformed Mexican Daniela Velasco (1:00.91) and Colombian Marcela González (1:02.03).
But the story of the day was the performance of runner and long jumper Leinier Savón. He finished off a late night of competition with a commendable performance that earned him a gold in the men’s 200 m T12. Savón managed to finish with a time of 22.06 seconds, even after the temperature had dropped 13 degrees during the previous event.
Earlier Savón had to leave in the middle of his attempts in the long jump T12 competition to run in the 200 m semi-finals, where he qualified for the final in which he won gold.
After concern was expressed about whether Savón strained a muscle in long jump he rallied to erase any doubts about his condition.
“It scared me a little. I am an athlete with very few injuries. It was a bad plant with my foot and I couldn’t get up, but I was treated and overcame it,” said Savón.
Savón, who is visually impaired, had a great debut overall. It was marked by his August 12 200 m gold on top of a gold medal and a time of 10.61 seconds in the 100 metres that would have been a world record if not for an excessive tailwind. “The medal is for Fidel, my people and my family,” he said.
Savón also won a silver medal in long jump with an T12 class Games record of 6.62 m. Had that event not been combined with the F11 competition, the result would have made him winner of three golds.
“That will have to wait for another time. I just want to reach seven metres and lower my times from now on. The rest will be for the competitions,” Savón said.
Cuba also celebrated on August 12 two silver medals won by Lázaro Zamora in men’s discus throw and shot put F46, and bronze medals won by Sergio Arturo Pérez (men’s judo-66 kg), Ethiam Calderón (men’s 400 m T47) and Yohannis Lastre (men’s long jump T11-12).