Q&A WITH… YARISLEY SILVA RODRIGUEZ

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Country: Cuba

Profession: Athlete – Pole vault

Career highlights:

  • 4-time Olympian
  • 2012 Olympic silver medallist
  • 2015 World Champion
  • 2x World Championships Bronze medallist (2013, 2017)
  • 2014 World Indoor Champion
  • 3x Pan American Games Gold medallist (2011, 2015, 2019)
  • 2007 American Games Bronze medallist

Yarisley took women’s pole vault in Cuba to the next level when she won bronze at the 2007 Pan American Games – this was the first medal by a Cuban pole vaulter at the continental level. Her Olympic silver medal was also the first for a Latin American pole vaulter in Olympic history.

Can you take us through the moment you crossed the bar at 4,75m to win silver at the London Olympic Games?

I remember when I crossed that bar and saw that I was already in the medals. That was a wonderful moment for me, it changed my life and my way of thinking. I saw that if you fight for what you set your mind on it can be achieved. It was an unforgettable experience.

It is one of the most brilliant titles I have, being on the podium representing my country and knowing that I was the only Latin American woman who has achieved that is wonderful. We went through many things to get there. It is something that every athlete dreams of, it is the reward of my efforts and that of my coach and the team behind us.

It a beautiful thing to see your wishes fulfilled and that God allowed it. That moment changed my life, not only financially but also how people see me, everything around me took a radical turn. That’s why if you change things, you also change.

You have achieved a lot of firsts for Latin America and are a role model to many – what are your thoughts on representation and visibility, allowing girls to see someone like them achieving at the highest level?

It is nice to know that you are an inspiration to others and that you give others encouragement in their difficult moments and that they see that they can also achieve their goals despite not having anything, despite the challenges and what others may say or think about you. If you believe, everything is possible.

Despite your busy schedule you still make time to visit your hometown of Pinar del Río, what are some of your favourite memories from growing up there?

I still visit my hometown although we don’t live in the same neighbourhood as before. It gives me a sense of healing. Whenever I am there, I greet everyone from the top of the hill until I reach the bottom of the hill.

My relatives, godson and childhood friends are also there. It is beautiful to share with them because we must never forget where we came from. Whenever I meditate and see where I am going and everything that God has done for me, I am grateful to God. Remembering where you come from encourages you to go forward.

Do you have any superstitions or routines that you do before competing?

When I go to competitions, I try not to change anything – because what you don’t do in training, you won’t do in competition. The only thing you must do in competition is concentrate and enjoy what you do.

Who do you consider your ‘worthy rival’?

Every day I learn that it is oneself. You have no idea of ​​the things that I have to face in my training, when I am going to change poles or whatever my coach demands of me in those moments. Things like not touching your chin during a jump, and every day we jump higher and higher. I have to overcome it every day and face all my fears and insecurities every day. I would say that is our worst rival. There is no doubt that everyone who has achieved something in life did so because she overcame some obstacle that has stopped her.

What is your favourite Cuban meal?

I enjoy our traditional food, but I like seafood, especially sushi, and Italian food. I also like sweets a lot, so I am always eating sweets.  

Can you tell us one interesting fact about your culture?

A big part of our culture is our music, poetry, sports, and its people who are friendly and kind. Cuba is still making changes and transformations for the benefit of the country, that is why it is called the Cuban Revolution.

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