Photos: Ricardo López Hevia
No one in his native Guantanamo would have guessed that the young boy born November 19, 1986, Dayron Robles, would to go on to become the Olympic champion and world-record holder in 110-meters hurdles.
Considered by many as the best hurdles sprinter in the planet today, he is in possession of three of the ten best times in 110 meters ever recorded.
His best time is 12.87 seconds —current world record—, achieved in June 2008 at the Athletic Meeting in Ostrava, Czech Republic, in addition to a 12.88 and a 12.91.
Now, at age 25, he is preparing to participate in the 2012 London Olympic Games, with the aim of retaining the crown he won in Beijing. Havana’s Pan-American Stadium serves as his training grounds. There, between jumps, weights and the pool, he dedicates a few minutes to us.
They say that the road to the highest podium in athletics —where you are today—, passed through other sports and a few childhood pranks. How did you get this far?
I was a normal kid, one more youngster in this Island —hyperactive, for sure—, that needed to spend his energies on something and turned to sports, taking advantage of that birthright that all Cubans enjoy.
I practiced a number of them: wrestling, judo, karate, swimming, volleyball, basketball, boxing, and the finally athletics, which I began to practice when I was 10 years old. Even within athletics I first worked at other disciplines until I enrolled in the School for Sports Initiation (EIDE). Starting then I devoted myself entirely to athletics in body and soul, and the trainers —who were like my parents—, helped me perfect my technique and guided me along the right path.
Today, where is that path taking you? What does Dayron Robles expect of the year 2012, when there are so many tough events?
I am the defending champion of the most important events in athletics this year, the Olympic Games, the Indoor World Championship and the Diamond League. In the first place, I hope to enjoy the health to allow me to improve my performance, then to accomplish the methodology proposed by my trainer and my work group, and if I achieve all of this, I think that things can work out for the upcoming competitions. I am working diligently, especially trying to motivate myself, because I have lost my motivation due to the many shortages that our sport is encountering. Right now there are many things that are not going well. With these issues, it is difficult sometimes to do intense work.
Many people demand from me thinking that I have all the necessary conditions and it’s not so, but my work group drives me. The kids are demanding of me and help me be better each day, mostly out of respect for myself.
Dayron also holds three of the best records in 60-m hurdles (7.33, 7.34 and 7.36 seconds), and at the Istanbul, Turkey, World Championship, he will try to beat the top result in an indoor track (7.30), held by Britain’s Collin Jackson since March 6, 1994.
This Cuban, identified on and off the track by his sunglasses, could not hold on to the gold medal at the 2011 Daegu World Championship, where he was first in the final, but was disqualified for making contact and obstructing China’s Liu Xiang.
The most difficult rivals?
My principal rival is myself. I have to surpass myself to be able to face outside opponents.
But without a doubt, the North-Americans that classify for the Olympic Games, the Cubans themselves, China’s Liu Xiang and anyone that has the possibility of being in a final of any competition will always be a worthy rival, because he will be fighting for the same goal as I, to win.
And as you await the moment of the competition, what is a day in your life like? How do you manage to combine the training with your family life?
Wake up early, go to training, eat lunch, go to school… normal things. I try to be normal within the abnormality, that is, I aspire to be a regular young person while I’m conscious that I’m not.
I try to spend a lot of time with my family and my girlfriend, because all of the times that I spend with them are very good for me. It’s important to break away from the routine of sports and they help me with that, although it is also complicated because they seldom understand the things that I have to do.
When you hear the National Anthem in an awards ceremony, how do you feel? What is it like for you to be Cuban?
Being Cuban is a great thing to me, it is my nationality and I am going to defend it wherever I go and in whatever circumstances I find myself. It’s marvelous. Something so simple as to arrive anywhere and hear people say, Cuban! and ask about our country, that’s great. And the pride of being able to represent Cuba is even greater than being Cuban.
¿And Guantanamo, do you miss it? Where is it in your life?
Unforgettable. I go there every year, but really, what I cannot be without now is a track, that I would really miss.
Dayron is a few words:
-Hobby: Basketball and reading.
-Sunglasses: My security.
-Daegu: I don’t even want to remember it.
-Retirement: Don’t even think about it.
-Five years from now: I’ll still be running super hard.