Cuba’s two-time World C’ships medalist is now grooming India’s next generation of jumpers
After the very first training session with long jumper Jeswin Aldrin, Cuban coach Yoandri Betanzos realized that the youngster from Tamil Nadu belonged to the 8-meter club. Just months after arriving at JSW’s facility in Bellary, Jeswin broke the bar with an 8.20m jump last month at 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, strides, run-up and fall. We have improved a lot, but there is still a lot to improve,” he adds. Betanzos, 40, double silver medalist at the World Championships, comes from a family of athletes. Her father is still an active boxing trainer, her mother was a sprinter, and her brother is a former jumper. Indeed, 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 hospital and I was born, “he says l incident with a bright smile on his face. Growing up, Betanzos always knew he would become a sportsman, but he didn’t know in which sport to pursue his career.
He tried to follow in his father Alvaro’s footsteps and picked up the boxing gloves at age eight but soon switched to athletics. He started out as a high jumper, but his trainer Rafael Alvarez thought Betanzos wasn’t tall enough for the event. A switch to the triple jump yielded good results and he was quickly absorbed into the national junior setup.
“I started very early. From eight to 34 I was an athlete and now at 40 I am a coach. My life was and is only sport, ”explains this father of three children.
Betanzos currently mentors several top jumpers, including Pravin Chitravel, the top triple jumper last year with 16.88m, Sherin and Asian Games champion Arpinder Singh. Chitravel, who previously trained with French coach Antony Yaich, spent two months under the Cuban coach and believes he has improved in every aspect. “My training has improved tremendously. It focuses on both power and technique.
It corrected the way I lifted my feet during jumps and it helped me add more explosiveness to my jumps,” says Chitravel. Even before his arrival, Coach Betanzos received 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 to the Cubans,” he says.
Although it’s still in its infancy, Betanzos isn’t shy about admitting he’s dreaming big. “I am here for India to have a world jumping medal,” he said with conviction. Betanzos’ belief cannot be questioned. Despite an injury, he pushed himself at the Athens Olympics and managed a fourth-place finish, just a centimeter from a bronze medal with a 17.47m. In the qualification phase, he had jumped 17.54m, one cm less than the silver medalist in the final.
“Oh, don’t ask. I still feel very bad for missing the medal by just one centimeter. I can’t do anything now. Now my athletes will have to fulfill my dream,” he said.