Cuba wins latest chapter of long jump rivalry with Australia
BUENOS AIRES — 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 their 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.
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.”
The rivalry goes back three decades to the 1992 Barcelona Games, when Australian David Culbert competed in the Men’s Long Jump final. It escalated further when Jai Taurima and 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.
On his last jump, Pedroso overtook Taurima to win the gold for Cuba in front of a devastated Australian crowd.
“Since that time, Australia and Cuba has had this rivalry, in brackets I’d say it’s a friendly rivalry,” Stacey Taurima said.
Stacey is the brother of 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 Taurima) talking to me,” Cowley said. “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 him (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.”