Though the Cuban gymnastics program has eschewed the World Championships and the Olympic Games ever since three gymnasts defected during Worlds in Anaheim in 2003, it looks like we’ll finally see them back on the major international stage as their gymnasts will attempt to qualify for Rio 2016.
GimnasiaLatina reports that William Garcia, head of Cuba’s national program, announced yesterday that after the success of the Cuban team at the 2014 Central American and Caribbean Games in Veracruz, he wants two of his top prospects – MAG’s Manrique Larduet and WAG’s Yesenia Ferrera – to get the chance to compete at the Olympic Games.
Because they did not compete at the 2014 World Championships, Cuba will be unable to attempt to qualify as a team. However, the nation will be allowed to send three gymnasts to the 2015 World Championships in Glasgow, Scotland, to fight for an individual spot in Rio.
Ferrera should be able to accomplish this without much of a problem. In Veracruz last week, the tiny-but-mighty Ferrera helped her team to a silver medal while also capturing bronze in the all-around and on beam, and gold on vault and floor, sharing the title of “most decorated” of the Games with Venezuela’s Jessica Lopez. Not bad for someone who had almost no international experience prior to this year. In August, Ferrera also competed at Pan American Championships where she placed fourth in the all-around behind Lopez and two Americans before earning vault silver, floor bronze, and finishing fourth on beam.
In Glasgow, Ferrera should easily reach the vault and all-around finals, especially if her next year is spent focusing on Worlds as the ultimate goal. I’d think the Cuban federation would also send Dovelis Torres (another strong vaulter) and perhaps Leidys Rojas to attempt to qualify; while these two aren’t quite at Ferrera’s level, both have earned all-around scores higher than the lowest London 2012 qualification score and would be strong alternate options.
But that spot definitely belongs to Ferrera. During Veracruz 2014, I saw Ferrera’s passion and persistence with every routine she competed. The medals came almost easily to her, and I remarked multiple times that it was a crime she wouldn’t get the chance to show her skills on a stage larger than a continental event. I’m glad Veracruz was a wake-up call for the Cuban federation, who would clearly be wasting a tremendous amount of talent by leaving her at home during top international events like the 2015 World Championships and the 2016 Olympic Games, and I’m thrilled she’ll finally get her chance to shine among the best gymnasts in the world.
Article by Lauren Hopkins