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Two-time World C’ships medalist from Cuba now grooming India’s NextGen of jumpers

Although it’s still early days, Betanzos has no qualms in admitting that he is dreaming big.

Yoandri BetanzosJeswin Aldrin, Pravin Chitravel training under Cuban coach Yoandri Betanzos. (Express Photo/ Special arrangement)

After the very first training session with long jumper Jeswin Aldrin, Cuban coach Yoandri Betanzos realised that the Tamil Nadu youngster belonged in the 8metre club. In just a few months after his arrival at the JSW facilities in Bellary, Jeswin breached the mark with an 8.20m leap last month in the Indian Grand Prix. “I told him I could easily take him beyond the 8m mark and I proved it,” Betanzos said.

“I corrected Jeswin’s arm position, the strides, the momentum and the fall. We have been improving a lot but there is still a lot to improve on,” he adds. Betanzos, 40, a two time World Championship silver medalist, comes from a family of sportspersons. His father is still an active boxing coach, his mother was a sprinter, and his brother is a former jumper. In fact, his mother, a sprinter Amarailis Francis almost gave birth to him on the track. “It’s true. My mother was jumping over hurdles during a training session and felt a sharp pain and she was rushed to the hospital and I was born,” he narrates the incident with a bright smile on his face. Growing up, Betanzos always knew he would become a sportsperson but he wasn’t sure which sport to pursue a career in.

He tried to follow in his father Alvaro’s footsteps and took up the boxing gloves at eight but soon switched to athletics. He started off as a high jumper but his coach Rafael Alvarez thought Betanzos wasn’t tall enough for the event. A switch to triple jump yielded good results and he was soon absorbed into the junior national set-up.

“I started very early. From eight until 34 I was an athlete and now at 40, I am a coach. My life was and is only sports,” says the father of three.

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Cuban coach Yoandri Betanzos. (Express Photo)

Betanzos is currently guiding several top jumpers including Pravin Chitravel, the top triple jumper last year with 16.88m, Sherin, and Asian Games champion Arpinder Singh. Chitravel, who had earlier trained with French coach Antony Yaich, has spent two months under the Cuban coach and feels he has improved in all aspects. “My training has improved immensely. He focuses both on power and technique.

He corrected the way I was lifting my feet during jumps and that has helped me add more explosiveness to my jumps,” says Chitravel. Even before his arrival, coach Betanzos was provided with a list of athletes and their training and competition videos for analysis. “The first batch of corrections and suggestions were sent to the athletes even before I landed in the country. I studied all the athletes and they have similar styles and techniques when compared to Cubans,” he says.

Cuban coach Yoandri Betanzos. (Express Photo)

Although it’s still early days, Betanzos has no qualms in admitting that he is dreaming big. “I am here so that India has a world medal in jumps,” he says with conviction. Betanzos’s belief cannot be questioned. Despite harbouring an injury he pushed himself at the Athens Olympics and managed a fourth-place, just agonizing one centimetre from a bronze medal with a 17.47m. In the qualifying stage, he had leapt 17.54m — one cm less than what the silver medal went for in the finals.

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“Oh don’t ask. I still feel terrible about missing the medal by just one centimetre. I can’t do anything now. Now my athletes will have to fulfil my dream,” he says.

First published on: 03-04-2022 at 08:05:52 am
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