Javier Sotomayor

Sports, Cuba

Javier Sotomayor Sanabria (1967). Cuban sportsman, specialist in high jump; Olympic champion in Barcelona, in 1992, and twice world champion at Stuggart in 1993, and Athens in 1997. He still bears the two world records in outdoor high jump (2,45 meter high) and indoor (2,44 meter high) have not been beaten yet. He is one of the most outstanding figures of track and field of all times.

Javier Sotomayor was born on October 13, 1967, at Limonar, Matanzas, and since an early age he showed inclination for sports. At fourteen he jumped with relative ease over 2 meters; his trainers saw his potentialities and began to train him in that specialty, one of the most technically complex in track and field. He began to study at the Escuela Superior de Perfeccionamiento Atlético ( ESPA) where he trained and improved his records.

At sixteen he jumped over 2,33 meters. He was world youth champion in 1986 in Athens, Greece; the record he established at that venue of 2, 36 meter high is still in force. He participated in the first Track and Field World Championship indoor, celebrated in Paris in 1985, where he ended second with a 2,30 meter high jump.

In 1989 he showed his class at the World Second Indoor Championship in Budapest, Hungary, where he obtained the first place and world record with 2,43 meters high. That same year in Puerto Rico in an indoor competition, he jumped 2,44 meters high for a world record. Several months later he surpassed this record in Salamanca, Spain, with a 2,45 meter high jump. This record is still valid.

In September 1990 he suffered a lesion which forced him to be away from training and competitions. However, at the end of that year he also obtained gold medal in the Central American and Caribbean Games in Mexico. Nevertheless, in the next season in 1991 he was only third at the World Championship in Seville, Spain. He obtained good places in the world Championships of Toronto, in 1993; Barcelona, in 1995; and Maebashi, in 1999.

In the Barcelona Olympic Games in 1992, he triumphed with a 2,34 meter high jump. At the Pan-American Games in Mar del Plata, Argentina in 1995 he jumped over 2,40 meters high to win gold medal, besides establishing a record in this kind of games. He was able to overcome this record twenty-four times, which no other athlete has been able to beat after 1995.

A year later Sotomayor participated in the Olympic Games in Atlanta, United States, where he was classified for the grand finale with a 2,28 meter high jump, but when discussing medals he could only jump 2,25 meters high.

His last Olympic Games were in Sydney, Australia, in 2000. He suffered from some problems which made him jump, not without efforts, 2,32 meters for the silver medal.

Javier Sotomayor retired from national and international competitions in 2001. Since then he had been training the high jumpers in his country; at present he is a member of the High Jump National Commission. He has been awarded several distinctions. The Spanish Association of Sports Press awarded him the prize of Best World Sportsman in 1988. He was also awarded the Prince of Asturias Prize in 1993 for relevant results in sports. On several occasions he was recognized as the most outstanding sportsman from Latin America and the Caribbean, according to the voting of different world sports media in the annual Latin Press poll. He was the second black athlete to establish a high jump world record after the American John Thomas, who established it in Rome, 1960. Out of the twenty-four best high jumps in history, seventeen are his.