Cuba wins latest chapter of long jump rivalry with Australia
18 October 2018
BUENOS AIRES 2018: Cuba defeated Australia on Monday for the gold medal in the Men’s Long Jump at the 2018 Youth Olympics, in the latest chapter of a decades-old rivalry in the event.
After coming out of Stage 1 with a 6cm lead, Australian Joshua Cowley knew that he would have to be at his best to hold off Cuba’s Lester Alcides Lescay Gay in Stage 2.
Cowley set a new personal best with his second jump of the day of 7.82m. However, Lescay Gay immediately followed with a 7.89m jump that was enough to secure the gold.
The two had gone jump-for-jump as they pushed each other to the limit, but Lescay Gay, who was celebrating his 17th birthday, ensured that Cuba came out on top again.
“Australia just really wants to beat Cuba sometimes,” Cowley said. “That’s the goal when we come into these meets because it’s Australia vs Cuba.”
In a quirky twist of events, it will be Cowley's 7.82m (+1.5 wind) jump that goes down as the new Youth Olympic Games record, as Lescay Gay's 7.89m was achieved with +4.3 wind, making it ineligible for records.
One of the iconic moments in the Australian-Cuban rivalry was when Aussie Jai Taurima and Cuban Ivan Pedroso faced off at the Sydney 2000 Olympics.
“As the Australian crowd saw, they literally traded off jump after jump after jump,” current Australian Long Jump coach Stacey Taurima said of the Sydney 2000 saga.
On his last jump, Pedroso (8.55m) overtook Taurima (8.49m) to win the gold for Cuba in front of a devastated Australian crowd.
“Since that time, Australia and Cuba has had this rivalry - but I would say it’s a friendly rivalry,” Stacey Taurima said.
Stacey is the brother of Olympic silver medallist Jai, and as Cowley’s coach he has made sure that the rivalry with Cuba has not been forgotten.
The rivalry is so strong that other Australian long jumpers who have been beaten by Cubans reached out to Cowley to wish him well before the final.
“I got Stacey’s brother, Jai talking to me,” Cowley said. “And Darcy Roper, silver medallist back in 2015, he got beaten by a Cuban and he even wished me good luck.”
Roper won silver at the 2015 Athletics World Youth Championships. On that day the Australian was beaten by Cuba’s Maykel Demetrio Massó.
For Stacey Taurima, the competition in Buenos Aires reminded him of his brother’s battle back in 2000.
“Trading off jump after jump today had a lot of memories of what the Sydney Olympics had,” Taurima said.
“As I said to Cowley today, don’t be too upset. This rivalry is going to go on a long time, and this is just one of many competitions he will be going head to head against Cuba.”
IOC Young Reporter