Yulimar Rojas
Yulimar Rojas - Triple saut Femmes (48614911652) (cropped).jpg
Rojas in 2019
Personal information
NationalityVenezuelan
Born (1995-10-21) 21 October 1995 (age 27)
Caracas, Venezuela
Height1.92 m (6 ft 4 in)
Weight72 kg (159 lb)
Sport
CountryVenezuela
SportAthletics
Event(s)Triple jump, long jump
TeamFC Barcelona Athletics
Coached byIván Pedroso
Achievements and titles
Personal best(s)
  • Outdoor
  • Triple jump: 15.67 m (51 ft 4+34 in) WR (Tokyo 2021)
  • Long jump: 7.27 m (23 ft 10 in) w (La Nucia 2021)
    6.88 m (22 ft 6+34 in) NR (La Nucia 2021)
  • Indoor
  • Triple jump: 15.74 m (51 ft 7+12 in) i WR (Belgrade 2022)
  • Long jump: 6.81 m (22 ft 4 in) i NR (Liévin 2022)

Yulimar Rojas Rodríguez (Venezuelan Spanish pronunciation: [ʝuliˈmaɾ ˈroxah];[1] also known as Yolimar Rojas; born 21 October 1995) is a Venezuelan athlete who holds the world record for women's triple jump, currently 15.74 m (51 ft 7+12 in). She is the current Olympic champion, a three-time World Champion (2017 London, 2019 Doha and 2022 Eugene), and three-time World Indoor Champion (2016 Portland, 2018 Birmingham and 2022 Belgrade); she is nicknamed la reina del triple salto – queen of the triple jump.[2] Since 2014 she has held, and continued to beat, Venezuelan national records in triple jump and long jump. She is a recipient of the Venezuelan Order of José Félix Ribas – First Class.

Raised in a deprived area of Venezuela, Rojas was successful in other sports as a teenager but struggled to practice due to lack of resources. Encouraged to move into athletics, she excelled in high jump and sprinting before developing an affinity for the triple jump. She moved to Guadalajara, Spain, in 2015 to continue her athletics training under coach Iván Pedroso, and became dominant in the event. After several years specialising only in the triple jump, she began seriously competing in the long jump again in 2021.

Early life

Yulimar Rojas Rodríguez was born in Caracas and raised in a ranchito (shack, lit.'little ranch') in the Altavista area of Pozuelos, Anzoátegui; her family had moved there so that her stepfather could find work in the oil industry. She is one of six siblings, and has said that growing up in a large, poor family gave her drive to overcome adversities, which helped her career.[3][4][5] Their ranchito has since been destroyed in bad weather;[5] the family was given better housing in 2014 following Rojas's success.[6] In 2021, Rojas told RTVE that she had grown up only seeking to have some dignity in life, but, after she began competing, she had promised her mother, Yulecsy Rodríguez, that one day she would buy her a small house with walls, and strove to be able to make good on that promise.[7][5] Her early coaches reflected that, despite being talented and persevering, Rojas could not have become a successful athlete if she had not left the country in 2015, as she would not have had access to food and medical treatment to stay healthy.[8]

Inspired by the Venezuelan delegation at the 2008 Summer Olympics, Rojas, a tall child, wanted to become a volleyball player, but there was no nearby team. She also played basketball, but similarly could not find coaches.[8][9][10] Rojas was accepted to a specialist sports school and her stepfather, former boxer Pedro Zapata, told her to try athletics rather than volleyball.[11] She was also encouraged to try athletics under coach Jesús "Tuqueque" Velásquez at the Simón Bolívar Sports Complex in Puerto la Cruz.[8] Velásquez told AFP that, though the stadium was financed by the government at the time, Rojas and other young athletes had to help dig the sandpit where they could practice jumps, under a jujube tree.[12][13] The Simón Bolívar Sports Complex is part of the facilities of the José Antonio Anzoátegui Stadium;[13] two of Rojas's sisters, Yerilda and Yorgelys Zapata, are also athletes, and train in throwing events at this stadium.[5]

Rojas's first athletic event was shot put, and while she won her first competition she chose to explore other sports. Aged 15 she entered her first high jump competition.[10] She has cited triple jumper Asnoldo Devonish, Venezuela's only athletics Olympic medalist prior to Rojas herself, as an inspiration in her development.[10][14]

Career

2011–2015: Career beginnings

Showing young promise, Rojas was invited to international competitions, but her estranged father would not give permission for her to leave the country until there was a championship held in neighboring Colombia,[4][10] the 2011 South American Junior Championships. The event was Rojas's first high jump competition, and, aged 15, she won the event[15][16] and set a new national youth record, ranking #11 in the world that year.[10] Due to this win, she received her first spike shoes, given to her by Marco Oviedo of the Venezuelan Athletics Federation (FVA) after her coach Velásquez challenged the FVA to start supporting her if she won.[8] She was then defeated at the 2012 Youth championships, managing only fourth,[17] but performed better in higher-level competitions that year, jumping 1.75 m (5 ft 8+34 in) to take sixth at the Ibero-American Championships and claiming the bronze medal at the South American Under-23 Championships.[18]

In the 2013 season, she improved her personal best to 1.87 m (6 ft 1+12 in) with a high jump in Barquisimeto, taking the South American junior record.[19] She also registered a 6.17 m (20 ft 2+34 in) long jump and an 11.94 s 100 m sprint.[10] This year she won two international silver medals, at the 2013 Pan American Junior Athletics Championships (losing to Daniellys Garay on countback) and the Bolivarian Games. At the Bolivarian Games she competed in the long jump for the first time, placing sixth.[20][21] Improving in her new event, she had a best of 6.23 m (20 ft 5+14 in) in long jump that year.[19]

Rojas then began regularly competing in both horizontal and vertical jump events from 2014. Starting with the South American Games in March, she claimed her first senior gold medal in the high jump.[22] An appearance in the horizontal jumps followed at the World Junior Championships, where she came 11th in the long jump and 17th overall in the triple jump.[19] She won her first gold medal in the long jump Pan American Sports Festival that year[23] and, in recognition, she was chosen to lead the returning delegation back to Venezuela and was presented with a national flag by Tony Álvarez, the Minister of Youth and Sports.[24] A long jump/triple jump double followed at the 2014 South American Under-23 Championships in Athletics, which included a championship record of 6.36 m (20 ft 10+14 in) in the long jump.[25] At senior level, she narrowly missed out on medals in both disciplines at the 2014 Central American and Caribbean Games, placing fourth in each.[26][27]

She said that she became more attracted to the triple jump in 2014, and convinced Velásquez to let her change primary discipline. Shortly thereafter, she took the Venezuelan under-20 record, achieving 13.65 m (44 ft 9+14 in). The FVA said that she was a promising natural athlete, noting her unique style of not taking a proper step and believing she could jump much further if taught proper technique.[10]

Rojas established herself as her country's best all-time jumper at the 2015 Venezuelan Championships, setting national records of 6.57 m (21 ft 6+12 in) and 14.17 m (46 ft 5+34 in) to win the long jump and triple jump events.[10] Aged 19, she won gold on her debut at the senior level with the triple jump title at the 2015 South American Championships.[28] She then took silver in the event at the 2015 Military World Games.[29]

2016–2021: Triple jump specialist

Rojas at the 2016 Rio Olympics
Rojas at the 2016 Rio Olympics

Since 2015, she has been coached by Cuban long jumper Iván Pedroso, to whom she sent a Facebook message after the social network's algorithm suggested she connect with him. Pedroso responded, saying he believed she had potential and inviting her to train with him in Spain.[9][30] At this point, she moved to Guadalajara, Spain, where Pedroso is based, to live and train.[8][31][32] She then officially signed with FC Barcelona to their athletics division on 21 November 2016, with her measurements listed as 192 cm and 72 kg. She said that she was proud to represent the club, which she had long supported, with the club saying that she is "without doubt the most honored international athlete the Club has ever had".[33] The club had pursued signing her on recommendation of their and Rojas's mutual sponsor, Nike,[34] while Rojas was keen to join the club as she supported the FC Barcelona football team.[33]

Rojas won the silver medal in the triple jump at the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games with a 14.98 m (49 ft 1+34 in), placing behind Colombian Caterine Ibargüen, who took the gold after a jump of 15.17 m (49 ft 9 in).[35] Rojas became the first Venezuelan woman to win an Olympic medal, doing so in the same event in which the nation had won their very first Olympic medal with Devonish's 1952 bronze.[36] The national reaction to her medal was overwhelming; Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro boasted on television that the country was becoming a "sporting superpower" and fulfilling its 2008 promise of a "generation of gold", despite Rojas's silver being the highest accolade of their three medals.[8][37]

On 7 August 2017, Rojas won her first outdoor World Championship, winning against Ibargüen and becoming the first Venezuelan athlete in history to obtain a gold medal in the championships. In her fifth attempt, Rojas jumped 14.91 m (48 ft 11 in), 2 centimeters further than rival Ibargüen. She said that the win "came at both the best and the worst moment for Venezuela", hoping that having a world champion could bring hope to Venezuela, which was in the midst of the 2017 Venezuelan protests.[11] Rojas spent much of 2018 off due to injury, during which Ibargüen led the sport,[38] then returned to competing in 2019.[30] In February 2020, she broke the women's indoor triple jump record at the Meeting Villa de Madrid; on her fourth jump she broke her own South American record of 15.29 m (50 ft 1+34 in), then with her final jump landed 15.43 m (50 ft 7+14 in). At the time, it broke her own absolute record and became the second-furthest of all female triple jumps.[39]

Rojas landing a triple jump at the Paris Diamond League meet in 2019
Rojas landing a triple jump at the Paris Diamond League meet in 2019

Despite jumping a world-lead long jump (wind assisted) in competition in 2021, Rojas chose to only contest the triple jump at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.[40] She was chosen to be a flagbearer for Venezuela at the opening ceremony,[41][42] but missed the parade.[43] On 1 August 2021, Rojas won the gold medal at Tokyo 2020. With her first jump, she set a new Olympic record of 15.41 m (50 ft 6+12 in), beating Françoise Mbango's 15.39 m (50 ft 5+34 in) record set at Beijing 2008; on her final attempt, she improved this to 15.67 m (51 ft 4+34 in) (5.86 m hop, 3.82 m skip, 5.99 m jump), also breaking the world record, which had previously been held by Inessa Kravets since 1995 with 15.50 m (50 ft 10 in). Rojas is Venezuela's first female Olympic gold medalist, and also Venezuela's first athletic gold and third gold medalist overall.[44][45][46][4] Due to her dominance in the event, Rojas has been nicknamed la reina del triple salto – queen of the triple jump.[2][47][48][49]

2022: Dual events

Rojas started her 2022 season in the long jump, wanting to "make an impact in this event",[50] achieving a new indoor personal best and national record of 6.81 m (22 ft 4 in) in February.[51] On March 2, she competed in the triple jump at the World Indoor Athletics Final in Madrid, where she landed a world-lead jump and the second-furthest female indoor triple jump (just short of her own record).[52][53] On March 20, she then beat this record with an absolute best female triple jump, landing 15.74 m (51 ft 7+12 in) at the 2022 World Athletics Indoor Championships in Belgrade, Serbia,[54] exactly one metre ahead of the silver medalist, Ukrainian long jump specialist Maryna Bekh-Romanchuk.[55][56] After the win, she told Cathal Dennehy for World Athletics that her goal is to jump over 16 metres, saying it is what she was born to do.[32]

In the 2022 outdoor athletics season, Rojas did not compete until the events held in Spain. On 8 June in Guadalajara, she beat her own long jump record, achieving 6.93 m (22 ft 8+34 in) and qualifying for the 2022 World Athletics Championships in Eugene in July;[57][58] she could not contest the long jump at the World Championships despite this, due to wearing triple jump shoes during qualifying and an injury not giving her the opportunity to later qualify at another event.[59] She successfully defended her triple jump title in Eugene with a 15.47 m (50 ft 9 in) jump, just short of the championship record.[60][61]

Personal bests

  • Indoor long jump – 6.81 m (22 ft 4 in) (2022) NR
  • Indoor triple jump – 15.74 m (51 ft 7+12 in) (2022) WR

Records held

Personal life

Rojas is openly lesbian, and she is an LGBT+ activist in her home country.[9][69] She often dyes her cropped hair in bright colours; she chose pale pink for the 2020 Olympics, saying it reflected hope and strength.[45]

She has thanked late Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez for promoting fitness in Venezuela, which allowed impoverished citizens like herself to get into sports.[70] After similarly praising Nicolás Maduro in a "guided if not forced" phone call following her success at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, Rojas faced criticism in Venezuela.[71]

In April 2022, she became the face of the Banco de Venezuela.[72]

International competitions

Year Competition Venue Position Event Notes
2011 South American Junior Championships Medellín, Colombia 1st High jump 1.78 m
2012 Ibero-American Championships Barquisimeto, Venezuela 6th High jump 1.75 m
South American U23 Championships São Paulo, Brazil 3rd High jump 1.73 m
South American Youth Championships Mendoza, Argentina 4th High jump 1.68 m
2013 Pan American Junior Championships Lima, Peru 2nd High jump 1.76 m
Bolivarian Games Trujillo, Peru 2nd High jump 1.76 m
6th Long jump 5.87 m
2014 South American Games Santiago, Chile 1st High jump 1.79 m
World Junior Championships Eugene, United States 11th Long jump 5.81 m
17th Triple jump 12.99 m
Pan American Sports Festival Mexico City, Mexico 1st Long jump 6.53 m w
South American U23 Championships Montevideo, Uruguay 1st Long jump 6.36 m CR
1st Triple jump 13.35 m
Central American and Caribbean Games Veracruz, Mexico 4th Long jump 6.24 m
4th Triple jump 13.54 m
2015 South American Championships Lima, Peru 4th Long jump 6.20 m w (+2.4 m/s)
1st Triple jump 14.14 m w (+2.8 m/s)
2016 World Indoor Championships Portland, United States 1st Triple jump 14.41 m
Olympic Games Rio de Janeiro, Brazil 2nd Triple jump 14.98 m
2017 South American Championships Asunción, Paraguay 2nd Triple jump 14.36 m
World Championships London, United Kingdom 1st Triple jump 14.91 m
2018 World Indoor Championships Birmingham, United Kingdom 1st Triple jump 14.63 m
2019 Pan American Games Lima, Peru 1st Triple jump 15.11 m
World Championships Doha, Qatar 1st Triple jump 15.37 m
2021 Olympic Games Tokyo, Japan 1st Triple jump 15.67 m OR, WR
2022 World Indoor Championships Belgrade, Serbia 1st Triple jump 15.74 m CR, WR
2022 World Championships Eugene, United States 1st Triple jump 15.47 m

Honours and awards

At the 2019 Madrid Indoor Athletics Meeting, Rojas (center) and other athletes spoke at a conference of the "greatest athletes in the world".[73]
At the 2019 Madrid Indoor Athletics Meeting, Rojas (center) and other athletes spoke at a conference of the "greatest athletes in the world".[73]

Prior to the 2016 Olympics, due to her World Indoor Championships (Portland) win, Rojas was awarded the Venezuelan honor Order José Félix Ribas – First Class (named for Venezuelan independence leader José Félix Ribas). This was conferred to her by Nicolás Maduro at Miraflores Palace on 23 March 2016, with the award ceremony shown in a 54-minute obligatory transmission in Venezuela.[74][75]

There is a mural of Rojas, depicted jumping over Angel Falls, in Caracas;[76] another mural, of Rojas and footballer Alexander Rondón, is at the Simón Bolívar Sports Complex, where she began training.[5] In 2017, the Complejo deportivo Yulimar Rojas (Yulimar Rojas Sports Complex) in Barcelona, Venezuela, was named in her honor.[77] In May 2022, the government of the state of Aragua announced that it had partnered with local eco-sports product company Blackforce to build an Olympic-standard triple jump arena in Rojas's honor.[78]

In 2017 and 2019 she was named Latin American Sportswoman of the Year from the annual vote hosted by Prensa Latina.[30][79][80] In 2017 she was also nominated for Univision's Female Athlete of the Year, which was won by Paola Longoria,[81][82] and in 2019 was nominated for the Panam Female Athlete of the Year award, which went to Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce.[83] Rojas was named the 2017 World Athletics Rising Star (Female),[84] and was a finalist for the 2019 World Athlete of the Year (Female) honour.[85] She then won this in 2020,[86] being the first Venezuelan to receive the honour, and said that it "gives [her] a lot of motivation, a lot of strength for [her] to keep on track with [her] career."[87]

In 2020 she was also named the LGBTQ Female Athlete of the Year by Outsports,[88] and Female Most Valuable Performer in Athletics by Track & Field News.[89] She was nominated for the 2022 Laureus World Sports Award for Breakthrough of the Year, which was won by British tennis player Emma Raducanu.[90]

Notes

  1. ^ In jumps at the 2021 Spanish Athletics Club Championships in La Nucia, Alicante, she achieved 7.27 m (23 ft 10 in) w (+2.7 m/s) and 7.06 m (23 ft 1+34 in) w (+2.9 m/s), which are not counted due to wind assistance.[40]

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Records Preceded by Tatyana Lebedeva Women's Triple Jump Indoor World Record Holder 21 February 2020 – present Incumbent Preceded by Inessa Kravets Women's Triple Jump World Record Holder 1 August 2021 – present Incumbent Awards Preceded by Dalilah Muhammad Women's Track & Field Most Valuable Performer 2020 Incumbent Olympic Games Preceded byRubén Limardo Flagbearer for  Venezuela (with Antonio Díaz)Tokyo 2020 Succeeded byIncumbent