DESCRIBING Yarisley Silva (Pinar del Río, June 1, 1987) as the best female pole-vaulter of the 2013 season is no exaggeration, although she was unable to take top honors in the 14th Moscow World Championship or the year’s Diamond League competition. Her performance does, however, provide more than enough evidence to support the assertion.
This year, Yarisley became the third woman in history to vault 4.90 meters – following Russian Elena Isinbaeva and Jennifer Suhr from the United States. It was in the Dutch city of Hengelo where she accomplished the feat, on June 8 and August was a great month. No other female pole-vaulter surpassed the 4.70-meter bar 15 times, much less the 4.80 meters, on seven occasions. This performance provides a solid argument.
While many of Cuba’s track and field athletes had their best performances early in the season, falling behind as the international competitions continued, Yarisley was impressively consistent, even through the indoor winter period.
Perhaps few will remember, but Coach Alexander Nava’s pupil began to consolidate her stellar career in the Central American Games of 2006 in Cartagena, Colombia. In this, her international debut, she won a silver medal, bested only by her teammate Maryoris Sánchez.
With this debut, Yarisley established her winning habits and in the Río de Janeiro 2007 Pan American Games she vaulted 4.30 meters, to take a bronze medal – the first ever won by a Cuban woman in this specialty in a continental competition.
Little by little, she established consistency and her position among the elite, although not without some bumps in the road along the way, including her performances in Bejing 2008 and during the 2009 and 2010 seasons, when she went into a slump, unable to surpass 4.50 meters. China in particular has not left her with good memories. During the World Juvenile Championship there, she was forced to borrow a pole from a Canadian colleague the day before the competition, only to come away empty-handed. Later, in the Olympics, she barely reached the 4.15 meter bar.
Yarisley took off in 2011. In Daegu, South Korea, site of the World Championship, she vaulted 4.70 meters; and later in Zurich reached 4.62. In Guadalajara, another regional competition, she surpassed the 4.75-meter bar to defeat Brazilian Fabiana Mürer, with whom she had previously battled in Rio de Janeiro’s Grand Prix Caixa. This was a transition period; she was gaining experience facing the most outstanding athletes in her discipline. She did so in
Velenje and later reached 4.66 in Barcelona, leading up to her performance in Mexico.
HARVESTING RECORDS AND MEDALS
“This year has been the most important of my sports career, not only because of the fact that I became an Olympic silver medalist, matching my personal record, but also because of the consistency I have achieved,” she said in a conversation about her 2012 performance. Such was the case with Yarisley winning one of the top three spots in 19 of the 22 competitions in which she participated, with 75% of her vaults reaching 4.60 meters or higher.
This reporter believes that her 2013 performance perfectly vindicates describing Yarisley as the best in her class. In Moscow she was bested only by the all-time great Isinbaeva (4.89m) and Suhr, who reached the same height as Yarisley – 4.82 meters – but did so in fewer attempts, thus coming away with the silver.
Germany’s Silke Spiegelburg seems to have her name on the Diamond League title, having won three consecutive gems since 2011. (In 2010, Fabiana Mürer had the honor.) To appreciate Silke’s effectiveness in this competition, it’s worth noting that in the final stops of the circuit in either Zurich or Brussels, when double points are awarded to those finishing in the top three spots, she needed only a silver to win the overall competition in 2011. She won these final meets in both 2012 and 2013, to win the season title.
Yarisley fought hard. This reporter and the Cuban people consider her a champion, a natural competitor.